‘The Graveyard Book’
By Neil Gaiman
(For grades 4-8)
Neil Gaiman’s latest addition to children’s literature is the story of a boy whose family is stabbed to death in the opening scene by a “man named Jack.”
During the attack, the 18-month-old baby makes his way up the street to a graveyard where the ghosts adopt him and bestow upon him the name of Nobody (“Bod”) Owens. In addition to his new parents, Silas, a member of the Honour Guard, agrees to be his guardian until Bod is grown. As such, he supplies Bod with food and makes sure that Bod is schooled in the ways of the dead and the living.
It is these life lessons that Gaiman spotlights as he narrates Bod’s growth from a baby to a teenager. And while Bod’s freedom of the graveyard allows him to navigate the dangers within, he knows that the dangerous “man named Jack” is still looking to finish the job he started when Bod was a baby.
Gaiman’s fantastical tale, which is modeled after Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” and won this year’s prestigious Newbery Medal, is sure to be enjoyed by children, teens and adults.
‘Waiting for Normal’
By Leslie Connor
(For grades 4-8)
Twelve-year-old Addie has been “waiting for normal” her entire life. Her Mommers’ “all-or-nothing” approach to life makes having a normal life difficult, but Addie’s optimistic attitude never waivers.
Even after her ex-stepfather, Dwight, takes custody of her two half sisters, because of Mommers’ neglect, and she and Mommers have to move into a funny looking trailer on a busy street corner in Schenectady, New York. Addie finds ways to make the best of a bad situation. It is with the support of Dwight, her grandfather, Jack, her new neighbors Soula, Elliot, and Rick, and her new school friends that Addie is able to survive being practically abandoned after Mommers’ meets Pete and only sporadically comes home.
The characters in Connor’s novel will tug at readers’ hearts. While the story is a dead-on portrayal of parental neglect, it is also a heartwarming look at a positive father/daughter relationship. While Addie’s family may have their quirks, her relationship with Dwight is believable, honest and one that every child should be so lucky to enjoy. This is a must read.
Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.