Monday, January 26, 2009

Neil Gaiman winns the Newbery Medal

Neil Gaiman - 2009 Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book (HarperCollins).

Nobody Leaves.

Hear this tragic tale: a sleeping family, a talented murderer, and an adventurous toddler — orphaned, but not assassinated. Small and alone, by accident and luck he escapes the scene of the crime and climbs a grassy hill to safety. At the top of the hill the boy finds a fence, and on the other side, a dark, quiet place.

And what is to become of him?

Nobody Stays.

The boy is welcomed on the hill where the dead do not sleep, and the graveyard residents rally to protect him. For outside the fence that separates a city from its ghosts, a dastardly killer is patient and persistent. The danger is real, and it is alive. It is hunting, and wise, and evil. A little child must not be left to the merciless knife of a professional fiend.

But who will watch over him?

Nobody’s Home.

The chattering dead make a pact. A decision is made, and shelter is granted to the tiny fellow, who has no inkling of his peril. He has no parents, no place, and no name. But the kind-hearted spirits will not let him freeze, or starve, or meet his end by a murderer’s blade. They wrap the breathing boy in a shroud. They call him Nobody, for he looks like nobody but himself.

Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a Partnership. Married for 250 years yet childless all this time, they adopt the yellow-haired boy as their own and love him accordingly. They bring him into their lovely little tomb by the daffodil patch, and there they raise him to be clever and careful. They raise him to be wary of the living.

Silas, a Caretaker. The graveyard’s caretaker serves as Nobody’s guardian until he might guard himself, for the insubstantial dead must stay with their bones — and they have no means to nourish a living child. Teacher, counselor, and vigilant champion, Silas is not alive, but he is not dead. And unlike the ghosts, he may move among the living in order to acquire food, medicine, and other necessities.

Miss Lupescu, a Teacher. Foreign and strange, and a terrible cook, Miss Lupescu serves as substitute guardian and general tutor when Silas is called away. She may seem cold and somewhat uncaring, but she is a formidable woman and she has vowed to watch over Nobody, whether he wants her to or not.

Liza Hempstock, a Witch. She might be dead, but she still has her magic. Buried in the potter’s field outside the confines of the blessed graveyard property, she wishes for a headstone to mark her resting place and she wishes for a friend. One part trickster and one part helping hand, Liza is fickle but mostly fair … and honestly fond of the living boy from the next patch over.

Scarlett Amber Perkins, a Girl. The cemetery’s dead children make good playmates, but sometimes a living boy might wish for a bit of living company. Scarlett Amber Perkins roams the park beside the cemetery; her mother thinks that her daughter has found an imaginary friend. But as the little girl grows up, Nobody becomes harder and harder to explain away.

Nobody’s Safe, Not Living or Dead

The graveyard is a sacred place and well tended by its various attendants. It is quiet and homey, and there are worse places by far where a boy might grow up. But that is not to say that Nobody’s life is altogether simple or secure. Here and there lurk dangers unexpected and perils uncharted by the living. Though Nobody’s teachers instruct him in the ways of magic and caution, there are some threats a boy must face alone — and some lessons he must learn for himself.

The Ghouls. With their silly titles and preposterous claims to fame, the ghouls are violent, strong, and perfectly daft. Their gate is a dangerous, tempting place; and Nobody knows how to find it. He even knows how to open it.

The Sleer. At the bottom of a very dark barrow, beneath a hill, in a pit lost to history and myth, an ancient creature called the Sleer waits for its master to return. It hunkers deep below the earth with three objects of uncertain value and power—which it guards with threats and malice.

Every Man Jack. The less that is said of Jack, the better. His nature is an elaborate puzzle — a series of painful questions with answers that slit throats and break bones. What fiend would murder a family while it slept? What monstrous brute would seek to slaughter a toddling child in its crib? This Jack has his reasons, and those reasons reek of evil and rot. He’ll spare no trouble and show no mercy in his quest to end the boy called Nobody Owens.

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