Neil Gaiman is a great read, lets get that out of the way at the start. I loved his collaboration on Good Omens with one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett. And here I get to enjoy a lovely children’s version of his work.
The story follows Nobody Owens, from a two year old when his parents are murdered, through his adoption by the inhabitants of the cemetery up the road from his house and to the denouement of the story as a young teenager.
It is dark (the murders), it is funny (ghosts adopting a baby) and it is inspired by Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The characters are sympathetic, odd and quite sweet. Bod’s adoptive parents are Mr and Mrs Owens who are several centuries deceased, and his guardian is Silas – clearly of the undead fraternity. He grows up in the cemetery learning his letters by playing letter searches on the headstones and then transcribing them. He learns skills of a ghostly kind; fading and dreamwalking. He faces the Indigo Man, the ghouls and eventually ‘the man Jack’.
It reads as a series of short tales in which Bod goes through escapades where he learns his lessons in life; from listening to what you are told by your elders to the intricacies and fall-out of dealing to the school bullies. It is all, for the most part, very gently written.
It is not for younger readers, nor sensitive ones, though. The premise of the book is laid down on the fact of young Bod’s family being murdered in their own home. Not an idea that all children will be capable of dealing with. The supernatural side of the story is not really the least bit sinister and I think fine for most tweens. But before you let your kids rip their way through this very easy read, you should take the time to read (and enjoy) it so that any issues around the loss of family can be prepared for and addressed.
And, if you are an adult who like to read children’s books then you will most probably enjoy this too.