I remember reading The Jungle Book
in translation while in the fourth grade, and being spellbound by Kipling's gifts as a storyteller. I remember reading the original in English as a young man and still feeling the magic afresh. I had not expected it to happen a third time... but it did. Thanks to Neil Gaiman.The Graveyard Book
is a thinly disguised parody of, and a tribute to, The Jungle Book
. Only, the Indian Jungle here has been translated to an English graveyard; Sher Khan has been transformed into the man Jack; the wolf pack, into a bunch of ghosts; and Bhaloo and Bagheera into Silas the vampire and Miss Lupescu the werewolf. Even the bandar-log
are present as the eerily comic ghouls. Mowgli's counterpart is Nobody Owens, affectionately known as Bod, who grows up in the graveyard the same way Mowgli grows up in the jungle: a human boy living like a ghost, existing in the twilight land between death and life.
However, this book is much more than a take-off on Kipling's masterpiece. Inspired by the timeless classic, Gaiman has created a masterpiece of his own: a book which can be enjoyed by old and young readers alike. It is genuinely creepy in many places without losing the basic sunny nature of the story. The author's knowledge of Celtic folklore is evident throughout (I was similarly impressed by his almost encyclopaedic grasp of mythology in American Gods
). The novel exudes an old-world charm of the English countryside.
But mind you, for all its lightheartedness, the main story is dead serious: literally a matter of life and death for its young protagonist.
This is a fun read. Enjoy!