Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An utter tour de force. This scary Alice in Wonderland style novella has surrealism in spades, a perfect ear, a wonderful central character, plenty of shivers, and a detail to pore over again and again.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0747597308

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Coraline has just moved to a new flat in a huge converted old house. It's the summer holidays, but her parents both work from home and are busy, so operate a general policy of benign neglect. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible on the ground floor offer Coraline the odd cup of tea - and read its leaves to boot. The crazy old man upstairs is busy training a mouse circus. There's plenty of scope for exploring in the grounds, and so that's what Coraline does, just as Alice did before she found Wonderland.

Coraline doesn't find a rabbit-hole though; she finds a door, a door that opens into a flat that looks very much like her own, with people who look very much like her parents. But they are not her parents - who have suddenly gone missing - and it doesn't take Coraline very long to work out that her Other Mother has some very dark secrets indeed. Poor Coraline - with only a supercilious black cat to help her, she must rescue her parents and defeat the Other Mother once and for all. It's a tall order for a little girl, however big of heart...

... and Coraline is very big of heart. This new edition is out to tie in with a new animated film coming out this spring. The press sheet tells me it's um... the first high definition, stop-motion animated feature to be shot in 3D, which sounds jolly impressive. I nosed on IMDB and I must say it also looks jolly impressive. The film is going to have to go some to beat this wonderful, wonderful book though. Often compared to Alice in Wonderland, this is a surreal and shivery story full of menace. But it also has courage, heart, loyalty and love, and a big dollop of irresistible humour.

What strikes me most is how clever Gaiman is. Coraline, just like Alice, is easy to read. A keen reader as young as eight could happily attempt it. On the surface, it's a scary story about a brave little girl. But underneath, it's an existential battle for souls that gives pause for thought to any adult. And yet, the youngest of readers may not articulate some of the more subtle ideas, but they are bound to appreciate them. Alternate realities always offer a lot of what ifs and here Gaiman touches on the nature of evil, parenting, loyalties, trust and much more, always in the subtext and rarely in the open.

So it's scary, and it's charming, and it's fun, and it's deep. Anyone can read it. Is there anything Neil Gaiman gets wrong? Answers on a postcard, please.

My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

Readers should rush straight onto The Graveyard Book, also by Gaiman. Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley has a more Gothic feel, but retains surreal element. Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr is an absolute classic, and might also appeal.

Booklists.jpg Coraline by Neil Gaiman is in the Top Ten Books for Young Readers That Feature a Passage Between Worlds.
Booklists.jpg Coraline by Neil Gaiman is in the Bookbag's Easter Eggs.
Buy Coraline by Neil Gaiman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Coraline by Neil Gaiman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Coraline by Neil Gaiman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Coraline by Neil Gaiman at Amazon.com.


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John Lloyd said:

Having seen the 3D extravaganza they made of the film, I have to reassure Jill it is "jolly impressive", and I can recommend it on the big screen. Very different to the graphic novel adaptation I've also read.