Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About the Book
When his family is murdered one night by the man
Jack, an infant boy toddles unnoticed up the street to
the graveyard, where he is taken in and raised by its
denizensghosts, ghouls, vampires, and werewolves.
Such an unusual upbringing affords young Nobody
Owens (Bod, for short) just about everything he could wish for, but he still longs for human companionship,
news of his family's murderer, and life beyond the
graveyard. Bod's pursuit of these things increasingly places him in danger, because the man Jack is still
looking for him . . . waiting to finish the job he started.
Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean are frequent collaborators. How do McKean's illustrations contribute to your reading of the story?
There is a rich tradition of orphans in children's literature, as well as a tradition of child-of-destiny
themes in fantasy literature. Discuss how Bod fits squarely into both categories.
The graveyard is populated with characters we typically think of as evil. How does Gaiman play with this idea, particularly in the characters of Silas,
Miss Lupescu, and Eliza Hempstock? What do these characterizations suggest about human nature?
From the opening lines, Gaiman is able to hook readers with a distinct narrative voice and a vivid
setting. Discuss how both of these elements serve
If you are familiar with Rudyard Kipling's
Book, discuss how
The Graveyard Book is reminiscent of
Kipling's classic tale. How does a familiarity with
Jungle Book enhance the reading of Gaiman's story?
At the close of the novel, Mrs. Owens sings about embracing the human experience: "Face your life
/ Its pain, its pleasure, / Leave no path untaken" (p.306). How does this theme resonate throughout
"A graveyard is not normally a democracy, and yet death is the great democracy" (p. 29). How is death
the great democracy? How does Gaiman explore the relationship between the dead and the living?
It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. How does the graveyard come together to
raise this particular child? Describe the special
mentoring relationships that Bod has with Silas and Miss Lupescu.
Boundariesbetween the living and the dead, the graveyard and the worldare an important part
of the novel. How does Bod test these boundaries? What are the consequences of Bod's actions?
Bod's human interactions are limited to a shortlived friendship with Scarlett and a brief stint at
school. Discuss how these experiences change
Bod. How do our friendships and associations with others affect us?
What do you think of the advice that Bod receives from Nehemiah Trot, the dead poet: "Do not take
revenge in the heat of the moment. Instead, wait
until the hour is propitious" (p. 233)?
How does The
Graveyard Book compare to Gaiman's first novel for young readers,
success can be attributed to its strong and diverse following. What are some of the
characteristics of Gaiman's writing that allow for a crossover appeal?
Like much of Gaiman's work,
The Graveyard Book
manages to fuse elements of humor, horror, fantasy,
and mystery into a single story. Identify examples
of these elements and discuss how they work
together. How might the story read differently if
one or more of these elements were removed?
Rubbing. Scarlett first meets
Mr. Frost in the graveyard when he is rubbing
gravestones, a hobby that many people enjoy. Visit
a cemetery with paper and crayons to rub some
gravestones of your own. Play the part of a detective
and see what you can infer about those buried there
based on their gravestones.
Various dead characters in
the novel are introduced with their epitaphs. An
epitaph is the inscription found on a tombstone that
summarizes and memorializes the deceased. An
epitaph poem, therefore, is a very short (and often
witty) poem about the deceased. Write epitaph
poems for Bod, Silas, Jack, and Miss Lupescu, or for yourself, or for a friend.
The short previews of coming
attractions (known as trailers in the movie industry)
are a great way to entice an audience. Design a trailer
Graveyard Book and be as creative as
Think about incorporating a script, costumes,
props, sound effects, software applications (such as
PowerPoint), and a video camera.
Research some of the monsters
featured in the book, such as werewolves, witches,
vampires, ghosts, and ghouls, and write trivia
questions about them. Some questions should be
based on this particular book, while others may
draw from popular culture in general.
Powers. Bod has several supernatural powers: the Slide, the Fade, and the
Dreamwalk. Invent a fourth supernatural power for Bod, draw a picture of him, and label his four special abilities with captions.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Children's Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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