Study Guide

The Graveyard Book Youth

By Neil Gaiman

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“We never had a child,” said his wife. “And his mother wants us to protect him. Will you say yes?” (1.54)

Mr. and Mrs. Owens are given the opportunity to raise a child after they’re dead, even though they didn’t have children in life. Mrs. Owens, in particular, really appreciates having a youngster around. Youth is definitely something to be respected and adored in this novel.

“Some skills can be attained by education, and some by practice, and some by time. Those skills will come if you study. Soon enough you will master Fading and Sliding and Dreamwalking.” (2.10)

Like many of us, Bod’s youth is full of education. As this quote tells us, a lot of things Bod is learning aren’t taught in the classroom. Silas’s comment is in response to Bod’s desire to do things he sees the dead do.

“Well,” said the girl, “what was you when you was last birthday?”

“I didn’t,” said Bod. “I never was.” (2.37-2.38)

This conversation between Bod and Scarlett happens when Bod is about four, and Scarlett’s five. It’s pretty cute. Bod is saying that he’s never celebrated his birthday, doesn’t know about birthdays, and sure doesn’t know when his is. But, the play on words tells us about Bod’s early confusion over whether he’s dead or alive.

Bod was thrilled. He imagined a future where he could read everything, in which all stories could be opened and discovered. (2.95)

Bod is hungry for books like author Neil Gaiman was as a child. Unlike Gaiman, though, Bod doesn’t have access to all that many. This probably makes him appreciate them even more. We suspect “Library” and “Bookstore” are high up on Bod’s “Places to Go When I Move Out of the Graveyard” list.

“You are ignorant, boy,” said Miss Lupescu. “This is bad. And you are content to be ignorant, which is worse.” (3.60)

What’s a childhood without at least one really strict teacher? Luckily, Miss Lupescu is also fair, kind, and extremely protective, as it turns out.

But he was Silas, and Bod was happy to see him, and even happier when Silas gave him a present, a little model of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (3.267)

Presents. What kid doesn’t love ‘em? We all do, but there’s something extra magical about it when we’re very young. What Bod doesn’t know is that Silas was in San Francisco making trouble for the Jacks of All Trades. Of course, Bod figures it out, and that knowledge makes the gift all the more valuable to Bod. It can also serve as a reminder of his youth, with Silas as his guardian.

She still looked like a goblin, but now she looked like a pretty goblin, and Bod didn’t think she would have needed magic to attract Solomon Porritt, not with a smile like that. (4.80)

This passage describes Liza Hempstock, Bod’s friend who was burned alive and then buried on the border of the graveyard. We bring it up here because Liza was barely older than teenaged Bod when her life was cut short, all because Solomon Porritt liked her better than some other girl.

“Well, firstly, I think you’re old enough – what are you, ten years old now? – and normal, living people clothes are wise. You’ll have to wear them one day, so why not pick up the habit right now?” (5.41)

This is the second formal gift Silas gives Bod. Before getting the jeans and sweater from Silas, Bod wears a winding sheet. Oh, and a winding sheet is the cloth you wrap a dead body in before you put it in the coffin. We don’t even want to know where Bod’s came from, when (if ever) it was last washed, or what it smells like. This is kind of like the moment when you grew up and started thinking about fashion.  Bod isn't thinking about it quite yet, but we bet he will soon.

“What would you do to keep me here? <em>Kill</em> me?” And he turned on his heel and began to walk down the path that lead to the gates and out of the graveyard. (6.191)

Like a regular kid, Bod disagrees with the grown-ups in his life every once in a while. We can feel Bod’s pain here, but also Silas’s – he’s having a hard time keeping Bod safe, which is the main thing he cares about. Bod’s childhood is limited by his special circumstances, but is it really that much different from the limits regular people have for their kids? We guess it depends on the parents and the kids!

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