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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for The Graveyard Book Include:

Neil Gaiman’s Gothic fantasy The Graveyard Book is a unique and compelling adventure. As it follows the life of a boy raised by the dead, the story manages to provide powerful messages for its living readers. Orphaned as a baby, Nobody “Bod” Owens relies on his ghostly parents and guardian to protect him from a mysterious assassin that lurks in the world beyond the graveyard. As Bod matures, the novel provides the reader with a series of entertaining episodes that explore the meaning of love, friendship, courage, and growing up.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Gothic Literature

The Graveyard Book is an example of Gothic literature. Popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, Gothic literature uses darkness and horror to heighten romance and adventure. Although The Graveyard Book is a 21st century novel, it borrows many of the characteristics typical of Gothic classics. These elements include the following:



As you teach The Graveyard Book, consider pairing it with another well-known Gothic story, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories. For more information on Gothic literature, visit the links below.


Neil Gaiman was inspired to write The Graveyard Book, in part, by his love of The Jungle Book. He envisioned his story as a series of discrete episodes, capturing the coming-of-age experiences of the young protagonist. This episodic format is evident in Gaiman’s novel as the narration jumps forward, sometimes a few years at a time, capturing day to day adventures in Bod’s life alongside the more significant, life-changing moments. Like Mowgli in The Jungle Book, Bod’s character is conveyed through his interactions with a variety of different characters. Each episode is significant for the way it develops Bod’s character and expands our understanding of his world.


Essential Questions for The Graveyard Book

  1. How is death portrayed in this book? How does it differ from living?
  2. What role do communities play in raising children?
  3. What makes The Graveyard Book Gothic literature?
  4. How does Bod grow and mature over the course of the book?
  5. Which characters act as heroes in this novel?

The Graveyard Book Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Graveyard Book Plot Diagram


Copy Assignment



A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example The Graveyard Book Plot Diagram

Exposition

When a sinister assassin attempts to murder a family of four, the family’s young toddler escapes to the nearby graveyard. After his mother’s spirit pleads for help, the ghosts agree to raise the toddler and protect him from the deadly threat. The elderly Owens ghosts adopt him and raise him as Nobody Owens. A mysterious being named Silas acts as his guardian and a link between the worlds of the living and the dead.


Conflict

Although the dead acknowledge that Bod is a living boy and want him to have a full life, it is unsafe for him to leave the graveyard. Because the sinister man still seeks to kill him, Bod’s freedom is limited and he is unable to fully experience life.


Rising Action

Bod grows up with the Freedom of the Graveyard, allowing him to share many of the abilities of the dead. He learns lessons and makes friends with the ghosts around him. As he ages, however, he longs to know more about the living world and begins to test his boundaries by leaving the graveyard, going to school, and making friends with a living girl named Scarlett.


Climax

The assassin and his cronies, the Jacks of All Trade, chase Bod and Scarlett into the graveyard. One by one, Bod outwits them and uses his privileges of the graveyard to trap them. In a final showdown, he tricks Jack Frost in the barrow beneath the Frobisher mausoleum so that the Sleer drag him away forever.


Falling Action

Now that the Jacks are eliminated, Bod is safe. Silas permits Bod to leave the graveyard with him and continues to guide and support him for one more year in the graveyard.


Resolution

At fifteen, Bod is fully grown and loses his Freedom of the Graveyard. He says goodbye to his family and friends and heads off to begin life in the land of the living.



The Graveyard Book Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION When a sinister assassin attempts to murder a family of four, the family’s young toddler escapes to the nearby graveyard. After his mother’s spirit pleads for help, the ghosts agree to raise the toddler and protect him from the deadly threat. The elderly Owens ghosts adopt him and raise him as Nobody Owens. A mysterious being named Silas acts as his guardian and a link between the worlds of the living and the dead. Although the dead acknowledge that Bod is a living boy and want him to have a full life, it is unsafe for him to leave the graveyard. Because the sinister man still seeks to kill him, Bod’s freedom is limited and he is unable to fully experience life. Bod grows up with the Freedom of the Graveyard, allowing him to share many of the abilities of the dead. He learns lessons and makes friends with the ghosts around him. As he ages, however, he longs to know more about the living world and begins to test his boundaries by leaving the graveyard, going to school, and making friends with a living girl named Scarlett. The assassin and his cronies, the Jacks of All Trade, chase Bod and Scarlett into the graveyard. One by one, Bod outwits them and uses his privileges of the graveyard to trap them. In a final showdown, he tricks Jack Frost in the barrow beneath the Frobisher mausoleum so that the Sleer drag him away forever. Now that the Jacks are eliminated, Bod is safe. Silas permits Bod to leave the graveyard with him and continues to guide and support him for one more year in the graveyard. At fifteen, Bod is fully grown and loses his Freedom of the Graveyard. He says goodbye to his family and friends and heads off to begin life in the land of the living.