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The Graveyard Book Lesson Plans

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.

Student Activities for The Graveyard Book

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?

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:

  • Supernatural events
  • Gloomy, decaying setting
  • Subterranean passages, hidden rooms, or trapdoors
  • Mystery and suspense
  • Supernatural beings
  • Curses or prophesies
  • Romance
  • Heroes
  • Intense emotions
  • Shadows, moonlight, flickering candles

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.

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