Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

I enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book tremendously (a review appears on this blog). My almost 11 year old daughter recently started reading it and also checked our Coraline. I recalled Coraline coming out as a rather creepy looking film before Emily was old enough to see it. I picked it up a couple evenings ago to postpone reading my graduate school assignments and could not put it down. I stayed in bed this morning continuing it and finished it off this evening after work. It is a truely creepy, scary, nightmare inducing book. The illustrations by Dave Mc Kean add to the sense of foreboding and ickiness.

The story is sort of an Alice in Wonderland meets Beetlejuice without much of the  gallows humor in the latter. Coraline is a rather quiet young girl who doesn’t get enough attention from her busy parents. She lives in an English house divided into flats.  Two rotund spinster sisters who were actresses live downstairs. A strange fellow who is training a mouse circus lives upstairs. Coraline discovers a door that used to lead to the empty flat next door. Instead it takes her into a world that is a parallel one to her own, presided over by the “other mother.” Things don’t seem quite right. The “other family” cooks wonderful meals for her but on her first evening they want her to stay forever and to sew shiny black buttons over her eyes. She finds her way home only to find that her parents are missing. A large black cat becomes her ally. I wonder when I read this kind of book whether children would generally find it as creepy as I do. Perhaps they have less life experience so they don’t see the descriptions as vividly and viscerally as I do. I recommend it for a quick read, but not when you are home alone for the night…

Gaiman, N. (2002). Coraline. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. 162 pages. Illustrated. $15.99.


About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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