About the Book…

In honour of how much I love Halloween, we read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman as our October book.  Members in my adult book club told me how much their own children loved this book and the story intrigued me – a baby escapes from the house where someone has just killed his family (a very short and quick section at beginning of the book) and ends up in the graveyard where the ghosts raise him.
Although I loved this book and the magical quality surrounding it, many of our members had a tough time finishing it, or even starting it – maybe the murders in the first scene weren’t as glossed over as I thought.  I also think you need to be in the right frame of mind to read Gaiman’s books – ready to suspend disbelief and jump into his world of monsters and ghosts.

What We Did…

I started this Bookclub off a bit differently with a YouTube video. I found a  video from the actual graveyard that inspired Gaiman to write the book (The Ghoul Gate website).
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During the video, the girls wrote down the different emotions they felt using a worksheet from the website as well.  It was an appropriately eerie video and gave us all a sense of thoughtfulness and introspection.
After setting the mood, we sat down to the table and ate theme-based snacks such as marshmallows (to make ghost gum) and Rice Krispie treats shaped like tombstones. I planned for the girls to come up with clever epitaphs to write on their tombstones with icing, but they were too intent on eating them instead.
Answering questions about the book was hard since only 3 girls had finished the book. Instead we focused on more general questions such as what makes a story scary and whether they believed in ghosts.  We had a great discussion on how illustrations can add to the mood of a book.  The illustrations in The Graveyard Book really added to the sense of magic and mystery of the story.  I also found a quiz for the book and we completed it as one big group, spoiling some bits for those who hadn’t finished the book, but probably wouldn’t anyway.  Although Neil Gaiman’s website did not have any discussion questions, Harper Collins’ website and the Shmoop website had some good ones.

EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE:  The Graveyard Book Discussion Questions and Activities

In Conclusion…

I still think this is a great book for a book club – there are so many symbols to explore and  themes to discuss.  I heard an interview with Neil Gaiman on CBC once where he stated that we shouldn’t try to tell kids monsters don’t exist; children know monsters do exist.  What we need to do is tell children how to fight the monsters.  I loved that idea and keep it mind when reading a book with difficult subject matter.  Letting kids explore their fears and worries in a book can allow them to be more courageous in real life.  I hope my bookworm girls revisit this book at a later time to help them face their own fears of death and evil in the world.

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