Coraline: For brave children who like to squirm

fantasy book reviews Neil Gaiman Coralinechildren's  fantasy book reviews Neil Gaiman CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline’s family has just moved into a new flat. Her parents are always busy with their own work and Coraline (please don’t call her Caroline) has no friends or siblings to play with. She spends her time exploring her new apartment complex and the surrounding grounds. She’s got some eccentric neighbors: two little old ladies who love to reminisce about their time on the stage and an old man who trains mice to sing and dance.

But what’s really strange is the extra door in Coraline’s flat. It doesn’t go anywhere. Coraline’s mom says it used to connect to the vacant flat next door, but now it’s bricked up. Except that it’s not always bricked up… sometimes it does go somewhere…

Coraline is a terrific little heroine. Curious and brave, but appropriately cautious, she sets out to discover what’s in the vacant flat. And though what’s there seems rather wonderful at first, Coraline soon realizes that it’s actually rather horrible. Not in a bloody gory kind of way, but in a spooky, spine-tingling, why-the-heck-is-this-so-scary kind of way.

Neil Gaiman understands creepy: buttons for eyes, long red tapping fingernails, long dark hallways, talking rats, trapped and soulless children… I’m not sure why, but just the thought of an “other mother” automatically evokes goosebumps — How incredibly disturbing! The eeriness is accented with excellently terrifying drawings by Dave McKean (who did the Sandman covers).

Coraline is excellent fantasy for sensitive but brave children who like to squirm. I read it to my daughters, and I’m sure I squirmed just as much as they did. My girls enjoyed Coraline’s adventure and maybe now they’ll even be a little less put out when Mommy is too busy to play.

Coraline — (2002) Ages 9-12. Available for download at Publisher: The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring… In Coraline’s family’s new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own. Only it’s different. At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom, books whose pictures writhe and crawl and shimmer, little dinosaur skulls thatchatter their teeth. But there’s another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits and all the tools she can find if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Read and loved this book last year, and found the film adaptation to be a real complement to go with it. Granted, I think the 3-D was gimmicky, but the story more than made up for the schtick. Gaiman is good.

  2. Yeah, I agree. My family loved the film which we recently bought. That’s why I decided to read the book to the girls.

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