Johnny and the Dead

Author: Terry Pratchett

Johnny Maxwell has always liked the graveyard; it’s a great shortcut, plus it’s a quiet place. Or at least, it was quiet . . . until the dead started talking to him. For whatever reason, Johnny is able to see those who are buried in the graveyard and to talk with them–and quite an interesting bunch they are! Among the graveyard’s residents, Johnny meets a not-quite-famous escape artist, an outspoken suffragette, an upstanding public servant, and an athlete renowned for his high number of scores–in the wrong goal–to name but a few. While discovering the wonders of not-quite-living history is great, however, trouble looms as plans are made to dig up the graveyard and build a factory in its place. As the only living human able to see the dead buried there, Johnny is faced with the decision: will he, a twelve-year-old boy, become the spokesman for the rights of the dead?

Seriously, the more of Terry Pratchett’s writing that I read, the more I love it! Johnny and the Dead is quite a different experience from the other Pratchett books I’ve read in that it’s primarily written for children; the language, themes, and suchlike reflect this audience. Still, I would say that the flavor is classic Pratchett–delicious, in other words! There’s a delightful British flair to the writing–and a deep-rooted irreverence that is both shocking and appealing at once. The characters are quite interesting–both the historical figures Johnny meets and the living friends he hangs out with. There are also several intriguing adult characters, some positive, some rather revolting, but all well crafted and bringing a depth to the story that often isn’t found in children’s stories. One of the most moving aspects of this story is Pratchett’s insight into the need the living have for the dead–not the other way around–I feel like he explains the idea clearly and in a way that sticks well. In other words, I really would recommend Johnny and the Dead as a great paranormal story with a history-focused storyline–and yes, I would particularly recommend it for middle-school boys, but really, everyone should read this story, okay?

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