"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."
So begins the bloody first chapter of Neil Gaiman's otherwise (mostly) gentle fable, The Graveyard Book.
The last time I drove to a New Jersey SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators) conference, I was 'driving Miss Zombie' - accompanied by Carrie Ryan's Lyrical zombie adventure The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
This weekend, I've been driving down to the fantastic children's writing conference accompanied by the intrepid Mr. Gaiman, who reads the audio book version of The Graveyard Book with mesmerizing charm and aplomb.
The only other book of his I've read is his adult novel American Gods - and although I'm not normally a fan of such dark books, I was held captive by his ability to weave Norse, Egyptian and other mythologies into that modern American tale.
In The Graveyard Book, Gaiman weaves together seeming contradictions - families are made of ghosts, cozy homes out of crypts, life and hope out of death and despair.
During today's conference I heard my new friends (and, let's face it, idols) MG authors Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick talk about "purple prose." No they weren't speaking about vulgar vocabulary for middle grade readers, but rather the combination of 'red" (humorous) and "blue" (sad or serious) prose. I'm finding Gaiman's book such a combination of flavors and colors - poignant and comical, absurd and profound.
I can't wait to hear him read again to me tomorrow morning.