Neil Gaiman has done it again. I was first captivated by his Coraline (soon to be a Major Motion Picture), then drawn in by the campy Neverwhere miniseries, then entranced by his collection of short stories, Smoke and Mirrors. This time it is another book for younger readers — a sort of re-telling of Kipling’s The Jungle Book. This book is absolutely charming.
The Graveyard Book begins with a gruesome murder by a man only identified as “the man Jack”. The only survivor is a toddler who escapes to a nearby cemetery and, after some discussion, is taken in by the occupants. The rest of the story contains elements of romance, mystery, horror and adventure.
If you’d like to hear the first chapter (read by Gaiman himself), click the play button on the widget below.
On Saturday, Clare and I went to the National Book Festival on the National Mall. I began attending the festival in 2003 when I volunteered to hang out at the Teens and Children pavilion and to help with crowd control in the signing lines. I saw a few of my favorite authors that year — the authors I especially came to see that year were Avi, Nancy Farmer, Jane Yolen and Sharon Creech — all young adult authors whose books I’d been using in my classroom and been reading to my own children.
In 2004 I volunteered again, but this time was assigned to go between the children’s and children’s and teens pavilions. This was less fun because I didn’t really feel needed, so I pretty much just hung out and listened to authors that I wanted to hear. That was also the year I first heard about Neil Gaiman.
Clare saw a book that she thought she’d like in the book sales tent called Coraline. We didn’t buy it, but inquired about it at a bookstore the next week and found out it was written by an author called Neil Gaiman. We listened to the story on CD on the way to Illinois that Christmastime and immediately fell in love with Gaiman’s writing style and his voice. Not long after that I purchased most of his non-graphic novel books and began to read him. I also rented Neverwhere from Netflix and eventually found his weblog, which I still read religiously to this day.
I chose not to volunteer in 2005 and had a much better time at the festival, being a participant than being a worker. Neil Gaiman was at the festival again that year as well as a few other authors I liked, including a rare appearance by John Irving — my all-time favorite author.
We missed the 2006 festival because Dean planned a cabin trip that weekend. (Bad Dean — Bad Bad), but went last year, but were not interested in many of the authors.
This year we wanted to make sure we bought Neil Gaiman’s newest book, The Graveyard Book, that was on sale only at the National Book Festival (it goes on sale elsewhere tomorrow). I thought I’d want to see other authors this year, but what with the heat and humidity, waiting in line at the book sales tent, the crowds at the States Pavillion (where Clare likes to go to snag free stuff) and dinner plans for that evening, we ended up only seeing Gaiman this year. That’s ok. Just being in the same place as tens of thousands of readers is so amazing in itself.
To make a hollyhock doll, pick a fully blossomed hollyhock flower from the stalk, keeping about 3/4 of an inch of stem (this will become the neck).
Now, pick a bud that has some of the color of the flower showing through the green sepal. Gently peel the green sepal from the bud, exposing the tightly closed bud and the white bit near where the stem was. Notice it has holes. Gently push one of the holes onto the stem of the fully opened flower. The other holes will create the effect of eyes and the part where the stem was attached is the mouth.
Your doll is now made and will last a few hours before closing up.