Welcome to my blog for people in search of a good book.
My promise to you is, if it's here, it's good.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scary Done Right

I like Neil Gaiman. I have not read all of his books. I discovered Coraline about 3 years ago and liked it enough to read it twice, and it has had a good following with my middle school readers.

I stumbled onto one of his adult novels when I picked up the book Neverwhere at an airport bookstore to read on a long flight, only discovering after finishing the book, that this was the same author who wrote the deliciously scary Coraline. I also enjoyed the movie, Stardust, although I have no idea how close it is to the book, which I have not yet read. So, I can't say I'm an expert on Neil Gaiman, but so far, so good.

The Graveyard Book, his latest children's book, starts with some very scary images indeed. The worst is not stated, only hinted at, leaving it to the reader's imagination to fill in the rest, as it should be. A man, clearly an assassin, moves through a house holding a bloody knife, implying that he has murdered a family: father, mother and children, and is now searching out his last victim, a toddler, who should be in his crib and no problem at all. But this youngster is an adventurer, who has climbed out of his crib and wandered up the street into a graveyard. So begins the adventure of Nobody Owens, a scary and enjoyable tale.

Some people don't like Neil Gaiman's approach, too full of sinister images and fearsome villains for children they think should be sheltered from all knowledge of the dark side. I like his work. I find it spooky, but also filled with humor for those who are looking for it.

The original purpose of fairy tales was to scare little children into being good, but also show them how they can be brave, courageous and compassionate in the face of a dangerous world. That call to courage is something all children and adults can relate to. Boldness and determination are the qualities of Neil Gaiman's heroes, large and small, not a bad message for our children, not bad at all.

The movie, Coraline, is now showing. 

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