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Coraline Paperback – August 29, 2006
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Coraline lives with her preoccupied parents in part of a huge old house--a house so huge that other people live in it, too... round, old former actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and their aging Highland terriers ("We trod the boards, luvvy") and the mustachioed old man under the roof ("'The reason you cannot see the mouse circus,' said the man upstairs, 'is that the mice are not yet ready and rehearsed.'") Coraline contents herself for weeks with exploring the vast garden and grounds. But with a little rain she becomes bored--so bored that she begins to count everything blue (153), the windows (21), and the doors (14). And it is the 14th door that--sometimes blocked with a wall of bricks--opens up for Coraline into an entirely alternate universe. Now, if you're thinking fondly of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, you're on the wrong track. Neil Gaiman's Coraline is far darker, far stranger, playing on our deepest fears. And, like Roald Dahl's work, it is delicious.
What's on the other side of the door? A distorted-mirror world, containing presumably everything Coraline has ever dreamed of... people who pronounce her name correctly (not "Caroline"), delicious meals (not like her father's overblown "recipes"), an unusually pink and green bedroom (not like her dull one), and plenty of horrible (very un-boring) marvels, like a man made out of live rats. The creepiest part, however, is her mirrored parents, her "other mother" and her "other father"--people who look just like her own parents, but with big, shiny, black button eyes, paper-white skin... and a keen desire to keep her on their side of the door. To make creepy creepier, Coraline has been illustrated masterfully in scritchy, terrifying ink drawings by British mixed-media artist and Sandman cover illustrator Dave McKean. This delightful, funny, haunting, scary as heck, fairy-tale novel is about as fine as they come. Highly recommended. (Ages 11 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
British novelist Gaiman (American Gods; Stardust) and his long-time accomplice McKean (collaborators on a number of Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels as well as The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish) spin an electrifyingly creepy tale likely to haunt young readers for many moons. After Coraline and her parents move into an old house, Coraline asks her mother about a mysterious locked door. Her mother unlocks it to reveal that it leads nowhere: "When they turned the house into flats, they simply bricked it up," her mother explains. But something about the door attracts the girl, and when she later unlocks it herself, the bricks have disappeared. Through the door, she travels a dark corridor (which smells "like something very old and very slow") into a world that eerily mimics her own, but with sinister differences. "I'm your other mother," announces a woman who looks like Coraline's mother, except "her eyes were big black buttons." Coraline eventually makes it back to her real home only to find that her parents are missing--they're trapped in the shadowy other world, of course, and it's up to their scrappy daughter to save them. Gaiman twines his taut tale with a menacing tone and crisp prose fraught with memorable imagery ("Her other mother's hand scuttled off Coraline's shoulder like a frightened spider"), yet keeps the narrative just this side of terrifying. The imagery adds layers of psychological complexity (the button eyes of the characters in the other world vs. the heroine's increasing ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not; elements of Coraline's dreams that inform her waking decisions). McKean's scratchy, angular drawings, reminiscent of Victorian etchings, add an ominous edge that helps ensure this book will be a real bedtime-buster. Ages 8-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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.