Neil Gaiman's novel "The Graveyard Book" has won this year's Newbery Medal, the American Library Association's highest honor for children's literature. Complaints were voiced last year that "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From A Medieval Village" by L.A. Schiltz was unreadable, and that children wouldn't like it. It hasn't sold particulary well. There were those who thought that previous year's recipient, Susan Patron's "The Higher Power of Lucky" was both unduly harsh and unpalatably saccharine (I personally loved Patron's book) and that her main character, Lucky, came off as under-developed and without much consistency. When compared another to Newbery winner written 40 years ago, "Up A Road Slowly" by Irene Hunt, whose main character is complex, not easily pegged, and who matures through both difficult and joyful challenges, Patron's character Lucky might indeed seem as wispy and thin as a sheet of paper. But perhaps that's just the difference 40 years make. I have yet to read Mr. Gaiman's honored work, so until I do, I will reserve judgement. It promises to be interesting: it is, after all, the story of a boy raised by ghosts (!) after his family is killed. What I do know is that "The Graveyard Book" has been on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks, that the author himself doesn't consider it to be a "children's" book, and that he found inspiration for the work in Kipling's "The Jungle Book" and was encouraged by his son's interest and hunger to know the end of the story.
More later, once I've read the book. I wonder if it will be appropriate for my fourth grade students? The boys will probably love it.