Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean, tells the story of a young girl who bravely saves herself and her parents from the ghosts that inhabit their home.
Coraline Jones and her parents stay in a divided up flat. The flat below them is occupied by Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, former theatre actresses who live with their Highland terriers and the upstairs apartment is occupied by “a crazy old man with a moustache.”
Coraline starts off with the routine of a young girl who is bored. Her parents seem to be preoccupied with their own life and not sparing too much time to their only daughter. Coraline has learned to entertain herself and loves to go “exploring” on her own around the property of her flat. On a rainy, dreary day, she is bored and goes in search of something to do and comes across a black key. The key opens a secret door in the drawing room, that reveals a brick wall.
One day that brick wall disappears and a corridor emerges. Coraline goes through this corridor and finds a house that looks like her own house but it isn’t her house. She finds herself in this “other house” with two people who seem to resemble her parents, but their not her parents. Except for their eerie resemblance to her parents, her “other parents” have black buttons for eyes and appear ghost-like and pale in appearance. They seem nice enough, even welcoming, but they want Coraline to stay with them “forever and always.”
Miss Forcible and Miss Spink tell Coraline that she is in grave danger and hand her a stone with a hole in it for protection. Sure enough, Coraline becomes trapped on the other side of the corridor with her “other parents” with no way back to her own world. It is up Coraline to save herself and her real parents (who have disappeared) and the three ghost-children whose soul’s were stolen from them. Coraline’s accomplice in this world is a big black cat who mysteriously shows up to give her a helping hand from time to time.
The “other mother” with her black button for eyes with claw like fingers and whose great height is described as having her head touch the ceiling, seems nice enough but when she realizes that Coraline wants nothing to do with her or her world, things go downhill fast. The “other mother” becomes mean and determined to keep Coraline against her will. Ultimately, Coraline finds herself matching wits with this creature, whatever she is, in order to return to her world unscathed.
Reading the first couple of chapters, I was like: where is the scary stuff already? Sure enough it showed up in all it’s glory. It takes a lot to scare me but Gaiman has a great way of describing things: the black, unblinking black hole for eyes, the long, tapered claw like hands, the million little tiny red eyes staring back at you. The atmosphere in here was creepy and this is a children’s book!
I enjoy stories where ordinary people are seen overcoming the odds. This story reminded me of the animated film, Spirited Away, about another young girl facing down the odds. I love that movie but these are different stories but they have the same themes. The end result from such an experience for these kids is that it builds up one’s character, strength, courage and self-esteem. They end up realizing that their life isn’t so bad after all.
When faced with life and death situations, everything else in life seems easy in comparison and your problems are minuscule. I enjoyed Coraline and would grade the book a B. I like the message of this book in that it takes a lot of courage to be brave. I admit to being gripped somewhere in the middle of this book and unable to put it down towards the end. But still, it’s a B. Why?
I can’t quite put my finger on it, as I wasn’t quite as in love with this story as the others seem to be but it’s still a good story even for adults. I guess if I had to separate Gaiman’s creativity from his writing style/voice, it would be an A and a B, respectively. My dislikes are not worth mentioning as they tend to be more personal. Anyway, this story will make a great movie. Also, I bought the ebook and since this story is illustrated, the pictures rendered well on my ebook reader.