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Coraline Hardcover – Illustrated, July 2, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,176 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

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.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Series: Bram Stoker Award for Young Adults
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380977788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380977789
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAME on August 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Neil Gaiman has shown as admirable knack for fiction for young adults and children as he has shown in adult fiction. I am tempted to attribute this to his experience writing graphic stories, but it is really something more than that. It is an ability to touch the sources of wonder and fear without the necessity of excessive gore and grimness. Not that bad things don't happen in Gaiman's tales, but they tend to go right to the heart, instead of the stomach.
This tale is about a remarkable young woman named Coraline (who remains polite, even when you call her Caroline). Recently she and her parents have moved into one of those wondrous old houses that are sometimes converted into flats. Both Coraline's parents work at home, and sometimes she feels a bit ignored and bored. Nevertheless, she is encouraged to explore and so she does. First her neighbors. The Misses Spink and Forcible are two retired thespians who live together in the bottom flat, and up above is Mr. Bobo, who is an avid trainer of mice. Having run out of people, Coraline investigates the premises. Her flat is most unusual; it has 21 windows and 14 doors. Only one door is locked, and that only leads to a brick wall.
Well, most of the time it does. On some occasions, it opens up on a world just like this one, where Coraline finds her other mother, other father, and even other neighbors. At first it seems quite nice, people pay more attention to one there, the toys are better, and, of all things, the cat talks. Soon Coraline finds all is not quite as it seems. Everyone has buttons for eyes, her other mother has strange hands that seem to have a life of their own, and there are a remarkable number of rats. In fact, if you dig deep enough, things are really most horrible.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller. His diction is perfect. He does not waste words, but is not miserly with them either. His descriptions never fail to rouse a knowing nod and smile from the reader. Even when writing a quick throwaway piece in his journal...his style is impeccable.
For this novel, Neil sets his eyes on another audience: young adults. He gives children (or, as he has said, 'strange little girls of all ages and genders' - a nod to his friend Tori Amos and her 2001 "Strange Little Girls" album) a deliciously creepy novel about a girl, a new flat, and her other mother.
Coraline (not Caroline, even though all of the adults who live in the other flats keep on saying it that way and ignoring her corrections) and her parents move into a new home. One day, she pesters her father one too many times, so he sends her off on an expedition: find the water heater, count everything blue, count all the doors and windows. She does so, and is shocked to find that there are 13 doors that open and one that doesn't. She asks her mother what is behind the 14th door, and is told that it was bricked over when the house was broken up into flats. Her mother unlocks the door to show her this, but doesn't lock it again.
Later, Coraline creeps back, and finds that the door opens into another flat. It is just like her own, but not quite. In her room (green and pink, not boring like her own), she finds the sorts of clothing that she thinks she would have if she could pick out her own wardrobe -- not a grey school skirt, but costumes. In the kitchen, she finds her other parents -- not her real parents who work and don't play with her, but other parents who cook real food (not something from a "recipe" involving tarragon and butter beans) and dote upon her.
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Format: Audio CD
I received the audio CD of Coraline in the mail yesterday in the early afternoon. I'd read the book, and heard parts of it read by the author here and there, so I put it on for background, while I did other things. The "other things" didn't even get started for roughly three hours.
The recording begins with a verse from a quirky Gothic Archies tune in which Stephin Merritt sing-songs, "You are not my mother, and I want to go home," over layers of atmospheric dings and bonga-bongas. The song echoes the story's cohesion of humor and spookiness, and is split into three parts, playing a bit before each of the three CDs.
The story itself is a delight. Coraline is a typical child-explorer, examining the house and grounds to which she recently moved, uncovering the strange personalities that inhabit her world, and discovering that a door in her home which was previously bricked-up actually leads to a misty echo-world where old, hungry, button-eyed creatures masquerade as her other parents, having parent-napped her real parents, while trying to convince her to stay there forever so that they can keep her soul . . . Well. Perhaps her story is not so typical. Not typical, also, are the fantastic characters who pop in and out of the story, such as the Slavic mustached man who lives in the upper flat and is training a mouse circus, and his other-self, or the pair of dotty, but kind, retired theater mavens who read tea leaves and worry about their dogs' tummies, and their less-benevolent, other-world counterparts. Like any true exploration story, Coraline has an assistant for the more dangerous times, in the form of a condescending, snarkily witty black cat. And like every true exploration story, there are acts of great courage and startling discoveries made along the way.
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