Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What We're Reading: The Graveyard Book

Has everyone but me already read The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman? If you have, you can reminisce with me, and if not, grab a copy right away! Of course, that is the problem: grabbing a copy. I have been meaning to read this book ever since it came out on the ballot for the "Teens’ Top Ten" back in June, and my desire only increased when it was actually selected by teens as one of the top 10 books of the year; but the book was so popular that it was never on the shelf for more than 20 minutes before the next person triumphantly checked it out. Now that it is on at least one Burbank middle school English teacher’s reading list, the demand is even greater. But last week, while searching for another book for a patron, I spotted it and spirited it away for a weekend.

Reading it reminded me so much of a particular time in my own life: From 1993 to 1999, I commuted to Hollywood for my work as a movie title artist, which could be a stressful job, so at lunchtime my goal was to get away from the office and find a nice quiet nook—preferably outdoors, since I spent the rest of my day staring at a computer screen in a dark room—where I could eat my lunch and read my book. But although city planners have had some impact on the suburbs of Los Angeles, apparently the idea of including parks as part of the business and industrial neighborhood surrounding the movie industry didn’t occur to anyone. I eventually discovered a good alternative, however—Hollywood Cemetery, now re-christened Hollywood Forever. It backs up to the Paramount lot, covering many acres, and is an old-fashioned graveyard (founded in 1899), with headstones, obelisks, stone angels, mausoleums and a lake. In addition to being the final resting place of such movie greats as Cecil B. DeMille and Rudolph Valentino, it is also populated by lots of benches and tall trees, so for a shady place to eat lunch, it was ideal.

Its atmosphere of calm secrecy in the midst of a bustling city made Gaiman’s story of Nobody “Bod” Owens, who grew up in a graveyard, perfectly plausible to me—well, apart from the ghosts, ghouls, and miscellaneous undead beings! As a toddler, Bod took refuge in his graveyard after "a man named Jack" killed his family, and the ghosts there undertook to raise and educate him and keep him safe from a similar fate. But children, unlike ghosts, grow older, and there comes a time when Bod wants more than anything to venture out beyond the graveyard gates…

Well deserving of the Newbery Medal for 2009. Try hard to check it out! (I’m turning it in today…)
Photo of Hollywood Forever courtesy of

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