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Coraline Graphic Novel Hardcover – June 24, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 6-8–This adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel (HarperCollins, 2002) reads as though it were intended for the graphic novel format in the first place. Insatiably curious Coraline is an explorer dedicated to discovering everything she can about the area around her family's new home. When she comes upon a door in their flat that seems to go nowhere, enters an alternate world that at first is full of interesting things and delicious foods–everything that she has longed for. However, the dangerous creature there–called the other mother– intends to keep her forever. After Coraline's parents are kidnapped into the other world, she sets off on a mission to rescue them. Russell's illustrations suit the tone of the story perfectly, from the horrific black button eyes of the people in the other world to Coraline's very telling facial expressions. The style is realistic, which makes the moments when the other world loses its solidity even more eerie. The pacing never lags, and Coraline's transformation into a girl who understands that having everything you want is the least interesting thing of all is natural. For readers who enjoyed the novel, Coraline is sure to complement their reading experience. Those who come to the book first as a graphic novel will be just as captivated.–Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
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*Starred Review* Russell, a 35-year veteran of comics and frequent collaborator with Gaiman, offers an adaptation of Gaiman’s 2002 novel Coraline (illustrated by Dave McKean), a tale of childhood nightmares. As in the original story, Coraline wanders around her new house and discovers a door leading into a mirror place, where she finds her button-eyed “other mother,” who is determined to secure Coraline’s love one way or another. This version is a virtuoso adaptation, streamlining passages that function best in prose and visually highlighting parts that benefit most from the graphic form. A master of fantastical landscapes, Russell sharpens the realism of his imagery, preserving the humanity of the characters and heightening horror, even as Gaiman’s concise storytelling ratchets up the eeriness. The adaptation loses none of Coraline’s original character; she’s clever, resourceful, intrepid, and highly determined when it comes to doing what must be done. Comics fans will delight in this version, and readers familiar with the previous book will greatly appreciate the opportunity to explore the story in a successful new way. Grades 4-7. --Jesse Karp
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As this author likes to do, he paints an intriguing tale using both the strange and the familiar. Perhaps inspired by his own childhood reading the Narnia Chronicles and Alice in Wonderland, Coraline enters a strange world through a doorway to nowhere inside her home. The protagonist lives in an old mansion that was divided up into four flats. As part of the division, a doorway was bricked up but otherwise left intact. Two of the other flats are inhabited by curious adults who have interesting backgrounds and peculiar interests. But no other children. The fourth flat is vacant and this leaves Coraline wondering what it's like over in the vacant flat.
One day, she opens the odd door (that is usually full of bricks) and discovers a passageway to the "Other" world. Here she discovers her "Other" family who purport to be having a much more interesting and exciting life on this side of the flat. Coraline also meets her "other" neighbors who are even more intriguing and crazier versions of themselves than in the real world. However, there is also a hint that something is a little off, despite the seemingly gracious attitude of the inhabitants of the Other world. For one, they have buttons for eyes! Coraline is a clever girl and keeps her guard up refusing an invitation to stay in this Other world, but she's ultimately drawn back when her loved ones are kidnapped and imprisoned there. This story has all the "wonder" of Wonderland. Nothing is as it seems and all is fascinating in its absurdity.
Gaiman invents his own monsters and puts his own spin on this Other world adventure story that is reminiscent of stepping through the looking glass or through the furs in the oversized wardrobe. The tone of the story is what delivers its charm. It's dark and somber. Yet, despite the darkness, the author manages to keep it light enough for its intended younger audience. Like other masters of the genre, he manages to ride that line where the book is enjoyable for both adults as well as children. Gaiman keeps an element of danger and scary things in the Other world without becoming overly graphic. It's just the right touch. Quite a feat. Not too mention, refreshing.
The setting is very small. It takes place almost entirely in Coraline's home (and the "Other" version of it). This is very relatable. Gaiman really manages to capture the child's perspective of Coraline roaming around her home and the grounds outside. Everything feels big and adventurous. It makes me think about being a youngster myself and exploring different rooms in my grandparents' homes during family parties. How big a house can seem when you're so young...there always seemed to be a mysterious room or door that I might not have noticed before.
Even little touches like Coraline's dislike of her father's cooking feels authentic and in character. Coraline has a real voice in her thoughts, actions and words. Her parents too. They're busy, as parents often are, but they still manage to make time for her and convey a sense of love and doting.
Gaiman has a way of using his words sparingly but he still conveys a sense of place. He seems to find just the right touchstones to get his point across. This makes the story easier for younger readers, but also meaningful and solid for older readers. When you read authors like this, you know within the first page the lighthearted depth that is being conveyed. You're immediately swept up by the words and transported into a new world. It's a great feeling.
By touching on some classic tropes i.e. portals to strange worlds hidden from our own world, sassy talking cats, and smooth talking sirens (who are just a little too nice) - we are easily coaxed off the pages and transported beyond. However, Gaiman has his own perspective on this, and his unique twists and particular details take the old familiar and make it new again.
This feels like a short novella. A fast read. It quickly strikes a mood and sets the stage for a dark, adventurous fairy tale. Definitely recommended.
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes or our website.
I’m assuming if you’re getting this book, you’ve also watched the Tim Burton adaption (or maybe read the book?). While it is pretty true to this graphic novel, there are a few variances. I would say that the graphic novel has creeper moments, but Burton captures it all so well. It’s not a typical moral story, but it does have a moral at the end. Coraline seems like a spoiled brat in the movies, whereas the graphic novel she seems more lonely than anything (though still a bit bratty).
The artwork is lovely, the story moves along at a decent pace, and I think this is a wonderful book for anyone who is into this dark, riveting type of story. Coraline starts the book off bratty and unappreciative of what she has around her, and ends the story as a bold, independent heroine who risks everything to save her parents.
Definitely not the type of book for everybody, but definitely a must for Burton, Gaiman, and Gorey fans.
On the other side, Coraline finds a bizarre world that is an imperfect copy of her own. It is inhabited by two people who are like her parents, except that something is not quite right about them, or any of the other people she encounters. When she returns to her normal world, her parents are gone. And Coraline slowly begins to realize that them back might not be so simple...
This is a well-constructed story with a brave little girl as its heroine, wonderfully well illustrated. It is a longer than average graphic novel at 185 pages, but worth every bit of it for creepy excitement. Recommended for children old enough to see the fun and not just the terror.