Michelle Levigne

A recovering Trekker and Cleveland Indians fan, Michelle Levigne works full-time as a freelance editor. Current projects include the upcoming print version of her SF series, “The Chorillan Cycle,” from OakTara, Arthurian fantasy, “The Zygradon Chronicles,” at Uncial Press, and the YA fantasy series “The Hunt,” at Writers Exchange, Australia. Heavy influences in her life include Bill Cosby, Isaac Airfreight, and Marvel Comics. Website: www.Mlevigne.com.


I picked this month’s book because of online chatter. People who hadn’t read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman were leery about the story, about the values and message, and “shocked” that such a book had won the Newberry Award. However . . . the people who had read it seemed, mostly, to really enjoy it.

It reminded me of when Jesus of Nazareth came on TV, and some big name (foot-in-the-mouth, judgmental, etc.) evangelists (who have since tripped over said feet) were outraged by it, yet they hadn’t even seen a trailer much less the first hour of the mini-series. They condemned it based on what they had heard second- and third- and fourth-hand. (Is there such a thing as fourth-hand? Well, there is now!)

Anyway . . . what’s the story about? A family is murdered—the old gambit of trying-to-stop-prophecy-but-bringing-it-to-pass-by-interfering-in-hero’s-life. (Didn’t they learn anything with Oedipus and the whole Paris/Helen/Troy debacle?) The toddler target wanders uphill in the middle of the night to the local cemetery-turned-nature-preserve (and just how many of those are there in the world? Hmm?), narrowly escaping the murderer, who tracks by smell (eww!). The boy (how come it’s always a boy who has these nifty-weird things happen? Did you ever wish that Mowgli was a girl? Or that Tarzan was a girl? Or Zorro? Okay, they came close with Catherine Zeta-Jones.) is rescued by the graveyard residents and grows up there . . . and that’s all I’m gonna tell ya because I think you should read the book.

Yes, I confess, I’m a heathen who think Harry Potter is a lot of fun, too. As long as you remember it ain’t real, folks! This is an alternate reality. Modern mythology.

(This is where I could lecture you about the responsibility of parents to actually pay attention to what kids read. Talk to your kids. Make sure they know that in the real world magic spells aren’t fun and part of your homework.)

Repeat after me: This is fantasy. That means unreal things are ordinary. It doesn’t mean we want it to be real. It doesn’t mean we would welcome it really happening. (Although there were these stories my Trek club wrote, where we had a working copy of the Enterprise. Whooo-eee! Major fun.)

If I like the book, what am I griping about this month?

How about a disturbing tendency in books and TV to make broken families, or no families at all, the norm? Too many single-parent families. Or kids without parents. Did you ever notice Roald Dahl specialized in stories in which parents either were disgusting creatures who deserved their punishment (Matilda) or were wiped out before the story really started (James and the Giant Peach, and who actually gets killed by a giant rhinoceros in the civilized world, anyway)?

Is there a mad conspiracy to convince kids they don’t need parents—and when they grow up, becoming a parent is bad for their health?

TV today teaches that as soon as you put the wedding ring on your finger, you lose all couth and your I.Q. drops 50 points. Don’t you know? Married people are neurotic, jealous, uptight morons. And with a kid in the house, your I.Q. drops another 50 points because everybody knows kids are smarter than parents. And the only smart, cool parents are single parents who let kids do whatever they want, no matter how self-destructive, immoral, or vulgar, because they’re doing it, too. (Two-and-a-Half Men comes to mind.)

So, why do I like The Graveyard Book? Besides the salute to The Jungle Book? (I wanted to meet Mowgli when I was a kid. He was so cool—and I ain’t talking about the Disney version, either. Blech! That’s another rant!) Because Nobody Owens does have a family. Adopted parents and a whole bunch of “interested parties” who want to do right by him. You know the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”? (Although, with the way the world is, do you really want the entire town to influence your kid?) Well, in this book it takes a graveyard to raise a child. The adults are caring and thoughtful. They do a pretty good job with Bod. He’s a hero, somewhat innocent, but he takes risks to protect others and bring about justice. He knows when he’s wrong and apologizes, and when he grows up and has to leave the graveyard, you know he’s going to be okay.

Because that’s what family is for: teaching kids how to live right so they can go out into the world and be heroes in one way or another.

Kind of sad that people have to be dead to know what really matters in life.