It is raining outside, the shades are down, and the classroom is dark. The only light is a small dog-shaped lamp behind me illuminating the final pages of The Graveyard Book. A couple of my fourth graders are sitting next to me reading along as I read aloud. Several more are sitting directly in front of me, faces up, engrossed in the story. Still others are lying flat out on the rug or scrunched up on pillows. I’ve been reading for over thirty minutes now and there has not been a sound, not a rustle. I can almost feel the children’s anticipation as I get to the last page of the book and read the final three words.
A few weeks back as the children avidly speculated about what would happen to Bod, wondered whether he would see Scarlett again, questioned why Jack was after him, and worried if he would survive I asked if they’d like to hear the last three words of the book. Words, I assured them, that wouldn’t spoil anything. Yes, they said, please! Please! And so I read those last three words to them. They were just right. Enough to know whatever happened, the ending would be good. And it was. I choked up reading those words, reading those last sentences, just as I always do when reading the ending of Charlotte’s Web. There is something transcendent about the endings of both books. Both are sad and happy. They are good. And, above all, they are satisfying. For my students, Bod’s story ended as it should.
After falling in love with book last summer I was delighted to see the enthusiastic reception it received in the children’s literature world. The reviews have been glowing and it is being justifiably touted for the Newbery. But some wondered, what will children make of it? So I decided to read it to my nine and ten year-olds and was gratified to see that they loved the book as much as any of us grown-ups did. So much so that we’ve created a mural of the book. We may still scatter a few of the characters (say the living, the dead, and cats) around the border, but I’m so thrilled with it and eager to show it off that I’ve gone ahead and photographed it for you to see. The top part is the graveyard, the middle section is the town, and the bottom contains the kids’ favorite creepy places — the otherworldly Ghulheim and the tomb of the Sleer (and you will have to imagine getting to this by going down, down, down below the hill of the graveyard and the town). We purposely used different materials and styles for each section (Tissue paper, pipe cleaners, glitter, mod podge, various patterned papers were some of the materials. My favorite material has to be the cardboard from a Kleenex tissue box used for the gravestones and book title.)