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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 the Hardcover edition.
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 the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a challenging book to categorize. It is actually marketed as a book for children and adults 8 years and up. The writing is indeed geared towards a younger age bracket, the prose simplistic, the sentences short-clipped. Not only is the novel only 160 pages long, but it's large print as well. I personally breezed through this book in less than 2 hours. However, one has to wonder whether this book might be a little too dark for young kids to enjoy. Gaiman raises some deep chills here and goes for the grotesque on occasion with several scenes involving insects. Usually I find the term "Dark Fantasy" to be a cop-out used by authors who would rather not be referred to as horror writers so as not to be pigeonholed into a genre that has its ups and downs (Dean Koontz anyone?) but with Gaiman the term actually seems to fit like a glove.Read more ›
The unflappability of the young girl protagonists threatens to make the book too low key (as some reviewers have accused), but instead, I think it adds to the odd, vague tone. Also accurate in the negative reviews is their observation that there's a lack of background for this world's existence and for the characters in it. I respond, hallelejah. How many thousands of books are ruined by too much exposition. This book gets to the dark, otherworldly story pronto. Its world is assumed to exist and needs no justification.
Stephen King has never creeped me out like this. I'm reading this book to my seven year old daughter (against the advice of my wife) and loaning it to my tough guy, non-reading friend.
Coraline's family moves into a part house that has a door in it, which when opened, leads to a brick wall. In the other parts of the house lives a crazy old man named Mr. Bobo, and two elderly women that claimed to be actresses, named Miss Spink and Miss Forcible.
One summer night, Coraline awakens to find that the other side of that strange door leads to another world in which lives the other mother, the other father, the other crazy old man, the other Miss Spink, and the other Miss Forcible. These parodies of the people she knows have buttons for eyes, and the other mother does not want Coraline to leave.
Will Coraline ever manage to make it back home to her true parents?
Coraline loves to explore, and throughout the gardens and courtyards outside, there is much to explore. But one day, when it is pouring rain outside, Coraline asks her mother what she should do. Coraline's mother tells her to ask her father---so Coraline does. Coraline's father tells her that she should count everything blue, all the doors, and all the windows in the house. Later, after Coraline's counting is complete, she realizes there are fourteen doors, yet only thirteen seem to open. Coraline's mother uses the key to open the fourteenth door to show her that it only opens to a solid brick wall.
Or so it seems...
In the middle of the night, Coraline awakens to an eerie sqeaking and then a scraping scuttle sound. She follows the scuttle to the fourteenth door, which now newly opens to a long, dark hallway. Coraline walks through the hallway and discovers that this door opens to a whole new world. In this world, Coraline has an other mother and an other father, who both have big black, shiny buttons for eyes, and also who do not mispronounce Coraline's name as "Caroline." The other world is a complete mirror image of the real flat at home, yet hideously distorted.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I like this book but it feels a bit weird to me. It seems too childish for adults and too scary for children. Very interesting/fun read nonetheless.Published 16 days ago by Nylac
Awesome and quite creepy.This edition was illustrated and well put together. A good one for any collector of Gaiman.Published 1 month ago by A Customer
Coraline is a lonely child. With parents who are always too busy to pay any attention to her, in a new home with no friends nearby. Read morePublished 5 months ago by TeenageRead
It is catalogued as a children's book but I believe it is enjoyable for all ages. The story keeps getting better and better in every page.Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
My daughter introduced me to Neil Gaiman and I'm so glad. The book was so spooky and interesting that I ran out and picked up more of his books. Lived it!Published 15 months ago by Betty Linton
I can't help but find Coraline to be an amazing, frightening, fun story aimed at a young audience but appreciated by all ages. Read morePublished 17 months ago by AliKira
Great book: a strange, adventurous, fun, and an easy read.
I also really enjoyed the movie.