The Childhood of Nobody Owens
The Graveyard Book begins as a woman, a man, and a child are murdered by a strange man called Jack. The baby of the family, a child who has just learned to walk, has no idea he is in danger. However, he wakes up and wants to explore. He climbs out of his crib, descends the stairs, and walks out the front door. He follows the road to a graveyard, and the murderer pursues him. A pair of ghosts named Mr. and Mrs. Owens decide to protect the little boy.
When the murderer is gone, Mr. and Mrs. Owens adopt the baby as their own son. They name him Nobody Owens, which is soon shortened to the nickname Bod. The Owenses cannot get food and such things for the baby, so a strange, dark character named Silas offers to be the boy’s guardian. Silas is neither alive nor dead, and unlike the Owenses he can leave the graveyard whenever he pleases. All the ghosts of the graveyard meet, and after a long argument they decide to give the child “the Freedom of the Graveyard.” As he grows older, this allows him to behave like a ghost, passing through walls and entering graves.
No new graves have been added to this graveyard for hundreds of years, so it is old and run-down. Today it is a historical site and nature preserve, so local families often go there for outings. When Bod is about four, he befriends one of these visitors, five-year-old Scarlett Amber Perkins. He tells her all about the ghosts, and together they search for the graveyard’s oldest inhabitant.
At the end of their search, Bod and Scarlet climb down a long staircase to an ancient barrow. There they encounter a creature called the Sleer, which tries to frighten them away from the barrow’s treasure. Bod, who is familiar with the ways of the dead, quickly realizes that the Sleer is an imaginary creature and not an actual person. He is not frightened, but he is not interested in the treasure the Sleer guards either. He and Scarlett return to the park, where Scarlett’s parents are looking for her frantically. They take her away, and soon afterward they decide to move to Scotland. Scarlett returns to the graveyard only once more to say good-bye.
The summer Bod is six, Silas goes away and leaves a strange, strict woman named Miss Lupescu to care for the boy. Bod dislikes Miss Lupescu’s cooking, and he resists the lessons she teaches, which seem superfluous to him. He already learns reading, writing, and Haunting from two graveyard ghosts; to him it seems pointless to memorize Miss Lupescu’s long lists of strange facts, such as the ways to call for help in every language in the world. One day he wanders off to sulk, and he meets three small, creepy creatures who turn out to be ghouls.
The ghouls take Bod on a frightening journey into their country, and they say they will make him one of them. They claim to be fearless, but they are scared of flying creatures called night-gaunts. Bod, remembering one of Miss Lupescu’s lessons, calls for help in the night-gaunts’ language. They summon Miss Lupescu, who comes after him in the shape of an enormous dog. He learns that she is a Hound of God, a tenacious creature who chases down evil beings. The living generally fear Hounds of God, calling them werewolves, but Miss Lupescu rescues Bod from the ghouls and brings him home. Afterward the two become better friends.
About two years later, Bod accidentally falls out of a tree into unconsecrated ground. He meets Liza Hempstock, an ugly teenage girl who was drowned and burned as a witch many centuries ago. Bod decides it is not fair that, as a witch, Liza has no headstone for her grave. He decides to get her one, but he does not have much money. He sneaks into the Sleer’s barrow and steals a brooch from the grave. Then he leaves the graveyard—which he is not supposed to do—and goes to a pawn shop in town. The pawn broker, Abanazer Bolger, locks Bod into a side room and calls his friend, Tom Hustings. They have a card from the man Jack, and they suspect Bod is the boy Jack is looking for. They get drunk and argue about which is worth more money, the boy or the brooch.
Liza Hempstock appears to Bod in the room where he is locked up. He has so far failed to learn to Fade like a ghost, but Liza helps him do so. When the men cannot find him, they fight and end up passing out. Bod sneaks out of the shop, taking the brooch with him. When he gets home, he returns the brooch to its barrow. However, his adventure was not a total loss. With a paperweight he stole from Abanazer Bolger’s pawn shop, he makes a headstone for Liza.
Some time later, on a cold morning in winter, the graveyard begins to hum with preparations. People keep singing, “All must dance the Macabray,” but Bod does not know what this means. Nobody, not even Silas or the Owenses, will explain what is going on. A group of living people from the town below come into the graveyard, and Bod watches...
(The entire section is 2025 words.)