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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Graveyard Book

Yes, he’s British, but the books appears to be eligible, under the "resident" clause: "Resident" specifies that author has established and maintained residence in the United States as distinct from being a casual or occasional visitor." I say "appears to be" because any potential eligibility conflicts are always investigated by the Newbery chair and settled, if necessary, by ALSC leadership. This seems pretty straightahead. Gaiman "now lives in the United States," according to flap copy.  The US edition also appears to be in close-enough-to-be-called-simulataneous release with the UK edition, avoiding the issue that "books originally published in other countries are not eligible." 

Other’s have been touting this, and Fuse8 includes a nice roundup of other reviews at the bottom of hers. My copy was read tag-team-style in my house, requiring subterfuge on my part to get it away for the day that I finished it on lunch break. Resemblances to The Jungle Book aside (since comparison to non-eligible titles does not enter the Newbery discussion) this has an episodic rhythm that provides satisfying short narrative arcs suffused with humor, under a overall coming-of-age arc that grows steadily in tension and apprehension, drawing the reader in more fully.  Developments are subtly delivered…it’s not until p.100 that a tactile description of "a noise in the spire, like a fluttering of heavy velvet," and image of Silas leaving "his resting place in the belfry and clamber[ing] headfirst down the spire" give us a little more inkling about exactly what type of being he might be.  Since he is first and foremost "Silas" to Bod, so he is to the reader, and we’re forced to put aside any preconceived notions of the "undead" until we know him well enough.  Noticeably, Gaiman never does label him in the way I just did. It’s a very nice touch.

I do have to say that I find McKean’s illustrations wildly unappealing. Something about the grayscale, perhaps, just doesn’t do them justice.  Illustrations are not a part of Newberydiscussions, as "other aspects" beyond the text "are to be considered only if they distract from the text."  These distracted me, though not irreparably. They just fall into the "too bad" category.  

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at


  1. Monica Edinger says:

    I have been reading it aloud to my class and only got the final book, with the illustrations, last week. By then the kids and I were completely into the world and so McKean’s illustrations were simply a curiousity and nothing more. My students did point out that the one of Bod standing and looking out of the graveyard made him look way too old and that he wasn’t dressed correctly (as he seems to be in regular clothes instead of the winding cloth he evidently wears). But then I don’t show the Coraline illustrations either when I read it aloud and think the new graphic novel makes her look too old.

  2. Sharon McKellar says:

    I agree with both Nina and Monica. Such a wonderful fantastical book! The illustrations were not my favorite part, but were definitely not distracting either.

  3. Lisa @ the Eva Perry Mock Newbery Club says:

    Hi Nina! Even though this book seems to have been published simultaneously in the U.S. and the UK, I think it still might not be qualified for the Newbery because part of it was published previously. ”

  4. Lisa @ the Eva Perry Mock Newbery Club says:

    The blog software truncated my last comment! I just wanted to say that The Witch’s Headstone chapter of The Graveyard Book was included in M is for Magic, which was published last year. I think you understand the terms better than I do though, would this disqualify it for the Newbery? Either way, it’s a great book that kids who like scary things will really love – and I agree the illustrations don’t add a thing!

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