I listened to the audio of this one, and followed along (as far as was possible, anyway) in the "Browse Inside" feature on the HarperCollins site. Neil Gaiman's reading of this book was almost perfect. Like 99%. The characters and the accents and the tone were all perfect, but the 1% off is probably because Neil was reading this for kids. He spoke very clearly and precisely, which caused it to seem just a teensy bit slow. But that's ok, because it allowed me to absorb.
The premise of this book is great. Little boy's family is murdered in the night, and said little boy is then adopted, named and raised by the inhabitants of the nearby graveyard. But there is so much more to it than that.
As Nobody Owens (for that's what the little boy was named) grows, he grows and matures and learns and experiences things in ways that other children could only dream of. He has wild adventures, makes cool friends, learns a little magic, and even becomes a little girl's imaginary friend.
Each chapter in the book chronicled a different period in Bod's life, and a different adventure. We see him as a baby, and how he entered the graveyard and was taken in by it. Then we see him as a 4 year old inquisitive little boy, then an eight year old, then eleven... Each little segment is a story on its own, which all neatly adds up to the whole.
This book is really chock full of little lessons for kids, but it's never in a preachy or overbearing way. I'm no longer a kid, unfortunately, but I'd venture a guess that a lot of kids won't even know that they are learning anything. One of my favorite segments in the book is when Bod decides to end the reign of the two school bullies who have been successfully separating younger kids from their lunch money for a very long time. Bod involves himself, rather than sitting by and keeping quiet, and in doing so puts himself in danger, although he realizes that too late. But it struck me as brave and noble for a child who has never really had any live friends to have compassion enough for them to want to stick his own neck out and help.
One thing I want to mention here is that Neil Gaiman seems to love hidden and secret things. That's something that I can appreciate; everyone loves a secret when they're in the know. He also has a real gift for taking things that we're used to and giving them a little quarter turn, so that they are still familiar in a way, but are also new and exciting.
I was really engrossed in this book, and in Neil's reading of it, and I hope that this is not the last we've seen of Bod.