on July 10, 2004
Coraline Jones is a little girl (precise age unknown) who has recently moved into a big old house with her parents. It is the summer break from school and Coraline is bored. To pass the time she likes to explore the big house and its surroundings. One afternoon, she finds a door that leads into a black corridor. This black corridor in turn leads into a house that is practically a mirror image of her own, with the same rooms and the same inhabitants, including her parents. But within these there are fundamental changes; the rooms contain weird variations of her toys, the house and the yard are filled with talking animals and her parents are very different here too. They look like her parents but certainly don't act like her parents. Soon, Coraline and her real parents are trapped into this mirror version of their house and it is up to her to get them out safely...
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. There's something very magical about his writing that makes us feel a part of the world he is crafting despite the fantastical premise.
I loved how Gaiman used the short length of his story to his advantage. The story wastes little time getting started as Coraline actually stumbles upon the magical door at around page#25. Lots of things happen in the novel especially once the "challenge" is set forth between Coraline and her other evil mother, the pace picks up and the pages become filled with action and adventure. And the ending feels appropriate and satisfying too. The only thing I wish would have been included is some explanation, no matter how small, of how this alternate dimension came to be. But then again part of the appeal of Gaiman's work has always been about the mystique and unexplained weirdness of his tales. "Coraline" is a treasure of a story, wrapped in a small package that won't require more than two hours of a reader's time and yet will leave a lasting impression.
on May 23, 2004
I only slept two hours the night I read "Coraline." The first few hours I read and finished the book; the next couple hours I couldn't sleep, reveling in the creative world this book took me too that no other book has. There was not a cliche anywhere: not in story, language, mood, characters. Instead we have scuttling hands, fortune-telling mice, button eyes, and worlds disolving into nothingness on the outskirts.
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.
on May 27, 2006
Young Coraline Jones and her loving yet very preoccupied parents move into an enormous, ancient household. But they do not all of the house; instead, they only own one floor, the middle flat. On the bottom flat leave the two retired old actress ladies who also read tea leaves for fortune-telling, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. On the top flat, with the attic, lives the resident whom Coraline refers to as "the crazy old man upstairs," who often tells Coraline that he runs an immensely talented circus made entirely of mice.
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.
Coraline's other mother wants her to stay with her and the other father in this other world, but when Coraline leaves, she discovers, horrified, that her real mother and father have been kidnapped by the other mother, in an attempt to get Coraline back to her. Now, the only way left for Coraline to gain back her real parents is to challenge the other mother to a treasure hunt, and with the help of self-centered talking black cat, Coraline must fight for her very life in the other mother's deadly game.
This novel surprised me. I was never suspecting that a slim novel like this could be such a page-turner, or that it could be so suspenseful, horrifying, eye-widening, and entertaining all at the same time. I would hardly consider this a children's novel, especially because many of the horrific monsters, as well as the bitter cruelty of the other mother and the distorted world she has created, could scare small children. Still, this is an excellent novel that could scare even the bravest of adults, and I am highly anticipating the film adaptation of this novel.
on June 16, 2009
Coraline by Neil Gaiman is a short, eerie and enjoyable tale about a girl learning to appreciate her parents through a peculiar experience. The story is interesting enough to keep a person's attention throughout. The story was brilliant and aspects of it reminded me of 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' by Lewis Carroll. The writing is amazing and makes the most ordinary events seem exciting. I believe I would have enjoyed it more if someone didn't ruin the ending for me.
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?
on April 19, 2004
This short novel wins almost every major fantasy & science fiction award but once again the ALA committee blows it by handing the Newbury to an inferior novel. [I'm a librarian and can say that with some amount of authority--although maybe not much.] This book is an instant classic but was probably too dark for the at times very timid committee. At least Gaiman's not alone. E. B. White didn't win for Charlotte's Web and S. E. Hinton didn't win for The Outsiders. I suspect for much the same reasons. Regardless this is a beautifully written tale with a fine, tough little kid with dry wit and great courage working her way through events that would panic most adults. If the book reminds you a bit of Alice In Wonderland, good. It should. Both are books that are dark enough to unnerve some adults and good enough to enchant children. I'll be reading this one to my kids, grandkids and whoever will listen until I'm in my dotage. Buy it, you won't regret it.
on August 27, 2015
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. Yet with her over active imagination, Coraline explores the new world she is in, with or without her parents’ permission. The house they are now living in is divided into four parts. The actresses on the bottom floor, the crazy old man in the acted, then it is Coraline’s family and the empty flat in the middle. Yet on one rainy day, where Coraline could not go outside and explore, she stayed inside going into the fancy living room. There she found a door. A door that once her mother unblocked it revealed a brick wall that use to go to the empty flat. Soon that door would be the start of Coraline’s grandest adventure.
One faithful night Coraline followed the rats back to the door, which when she opened, was no longer bricked up. On the other side is a mirror image world of her own. Filled with everything she loved and her other Mother and other father who love her and want to spend all their time listing and playing with her. Where the food is good, and there is always things to explore. Yet too good, is also too much, as Coraline loses her parents to this other Mother. Coraline has to invent a game, to not only save her parents and herself, but the other children who did not see through the other Mother’s disguise. Coraline only hope is to outsmart the other Mother, who does not play fair.
Neil Gaiman did an amazing job in this twisted children story. Although it was written for a child, I enjoyed it, even with the simple language used. The pictures drew by Dave McKean were amazing, an excellent surprise for someone who haven’t read a book with pictures in a long time. Coraline hit the big screens as a 2009 children’s animation with Dakota Fanning voicing Coraline. Overall an amazing book, with a very interesting and unique concept.
Check out more of my book reviews at TeenageReads.com
While I purchased this book thinking that it would be another one of Gaiman's fantasies that is applicable for all ages, it is not. This is strictly a book that was written for children and, because of this, my review is based on that and not on any adult interpretation of the book.
Neil Gaimon, again using his superb writing skills, has produced a book that easily should appeal to the 8 to 14 age range. The book, itself, is not lengthy and is grammatically written in a manner that is easily understood. While some may view this novel as being a little too dark for children, it is less frightening than some of the other children's classics (The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Grimm's Fairy Tales, etc...) Coraline, the heroine, is simply overtly faced with the imaginings that most children her age have. Things living under the bed, animals that talk, the door that is always locked and unfullfilled parental attention are a few examples of these imaginings. While I do recommend this reading for the given age range, I would also strongly encourage parents to provide discussion periods with the child to have them more fully understand the message that the book gives and ease any possible fears that were triggered by the novel's imaginary setting.
on August 26, 2009
by Neil Gaiman
Harper Trophy, 2002
Buy the 2008 movie tie-in edition
Buy the 2009 graphic novel
Buy the Kindle edition
Neil Gaiman has been named as one of the top ten living post-modern writers (the Dictionary of Literary Biography). A prolific creator of comics, drama, poetry, prose and song lyrics, he's also been called the new face of horror fiction. You can even find him active in other media such as blogging, film, journalism, radio and television.
Coraline has won an incredible roster of awards and is, of course, a New York Times Best-seller. I decided to review Neil Gaiman's horror story for children because it was just released this past Tuesday as a DVD. This was a big deal in our household, as my 12-yr old daughter owns a copy of the book and the movie never came to our small city.
I can see why she was excited. Gaiman's story reads effortlessly. And the scenes are a wonderful collection of darkness and light, of horror and comedy and, always, even in the evil, of love. Through it all we follow Coraline, a bored schoolgirl on holiday and in a new home. The target of a wannabe mother from a sinister, alternate world, she too, is an interesting mixture of characteristics. Short as the book is, we delight in the growing understanding in the girl of what love means and of the sacrifices it sometimes demands.
Coraline is unlike Neil Gaiman's other mind-boggling works. It is a compact, lean and fully comprehensive piece. And I think it showcases just how brilliant this author is.
Note: In my opinion, the movie is a disappointment. Much of the shadowy feel of the written work is gone, surprising since the director is Tim Burton. Additional characters were added and scenes were modified, not for the better. My daughter says the movie was OK, but claims the book was better and commented on the same disappointments as I.
Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009
Nobody can drench a book in creepy, dank atmosphere like Neil Gaiman -- and it doesn't matter if it's a kid's book.
And "Coraline" -- now being released as a movie -- is no exception to Gaiman's track record. It's a haunting little dark fairy tale full of decayed apartments, dancing rats and eerie soulless doppelgangers, as well as a gutsy heroine who finds herself in this ominous "other" world.
Newly moved into an aged apartment, Coraline (not "Caroline" is bored. Her parents are too busy to do anything with her, and her neighbors are either insane or boring.
It's the sort of relentlessly dull world that any little girl would want to escape from -- until Coraline does. She encounters a formerly bricked-up door that leads into an apartment in another world, which looks eerily like her own. In fact, it's so similar that she has a taloned, button-eyed "other mother" and matching "other father," as well as a chorus of singing, dancing rats and magical toys.
At first Coraline is fascinated by the other world, especially since her other parents are very attentive. Then she finds her real parents sealed inside a mirror. With the help of a sarcastic cat, Coraline ventures back into the other world. But with her parents and a trio of dead children held hostage, Coraline's only hope is to gamble with her own freedom -- and she'll be trapped forever if she fails.
Without Neil Gaiman's touch, "Coraline" would just be another story about a kid who learns to appreciate her parents. But he infuses this story with a dark fairy-tale vibe -- decayed apartments, dead children in a mirror, beetles, disembodied hands, monsters that cling to the wall with souls in their grip, and rats that sing about how "we were here before you rose, we will be here when you fall."
That dark, cobwebby atmosphere clings to the increasingly nightmarish plot, as Coraline navigates a world where the other mother has every advantage. And Gaiman's wordcraft is exquisitely horrible -- the other mother's hands are compared to spiders, her hair to undersea tentacles. And the fate of the other father is a magnificently ghastly thing.
He even infuses poetry into the horror ("A husk you'll be, a wisp you'll be, and a thing no more than a dream on waking, or a memory of something forgotten"), and a fair amount of macabre humour ("I swear it on my own mother's grave." "Does she have a grave?" "Oh yes. I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back").
Coraline herself is a wonderful little heroine -- strong, sensible, self-sufficient but still fairly freaked out about what is happening around her. The sarcastic cat is a wonderful counterpoint. And the other mother is the stuff of nightmares -- she's utterly inhuman and merciless -- who "wants something to love. Something that isn't her. She might want something to eat as well."
Neil Gaiman creates eerie, slightly warped worlds like nobody else, and he does an exquisitely horrible job in "Coraline." Just never go through the door.
on June 18, 2004
I'm amazed by all the mixed reviews over Neil Gaiman's young adult novel, "Coraline". When I read this book about a year ago, I wondered how much enjoyment a horror story for children would appeal to someone who was about to turn 23. Now, I crave such stories.
Coraline is perhaps what Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" would have been, had Alice stumbled upon a world of demons and fiends where there's no guaranteed happily ever after for the unfortunate heroines who had stumbled there before.
Coraline, a precocious and intuitive young girl finds a portal into a mirror world of the new house she and her family recently moved into. There, the setting is a treacherous and dark (almost gothic?) world, that is populated by chanting mice, a talking cat, villainous monsters in place of the normal world's inhabitants and other oddities with the density of the cliched haunted house and the theatrics of a brilliant and original horror writer. To replace Lewis Carrol's infamous Jabberwocky, Coraline encounters the Bedlam, an evil spirit posing as Coraline's "other mother", who imprisons the souls of other children.
What makes this story most appealing, to both a young audience and an older one, is Coraline embodies the true spirit of a heroine. She is an ordinary little girl and at the same time extraordinary due to her bravery and determination to save her parents and free the previous victims of the Bedlam. She challenges the creature in her own game and braves through each corridor of alternative universe, with plenty of suspense and action that will have the proudest reader honestly concerned for the narrator.
This book is brilliant, creepy and inspiring. If you're a parent who is trying to convince your child that reading is fun ... this is an excellent book to begin with as it will keep a child in suspense without provoking severe nightmares or including any vulgarities and gore. Though I hate to say this, but after seeing the Harry Potter and Lord of Rings adaptations, I honestly hope that Hollywood will invest in Coraline as their next successful film project.