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.