Neil Gaiman is a force within the fantasy book world. Gaiman original was a comic book artist and writer. He is best known for Sandman. In the early 2000s Gaiman primarily became a novelist. American Gods (and its semi-sequel Anansi Boys), Stardust, and the British Mini-Series/Novel Neverwhere all sold well and are well known.
But prior to Coraline, I have only read the adult books (but I have read all of his adult books.) Coraline is a children’s book in a similar vein and style as Gaiman’s adult books. Gaiman write dark novels that are heavily influenced by fairy tales and full of literary references.
Coraline is a 9 year old girl, who in defiance of her mother goes into a empty apartment in their building and finds another apartment that is an exact duplicate of hers, except better. Her parents are there, sort of, and her room and toys and everything else.
But as with any creepy story, things are not as they seem. Her ‘other parents’ have buttons sewed on there eyes. And the cat in her neighborhood can move back and forth between the worlds. And in the ‘other world’ it can talk. And it warns her to leave.
Once she escapes, she comes back to find that her real parents are no longer there. Eventually she realizes that they have been kidnapped and she has to go save them. And unsurprisingly, with the help of the cat she does.
This is a creepy story probably appropriate for most 10-12 year olds. Its reading level is listed as 3rd grade and Gaiman says he read it to his six year old. As a read aloud it is probably appropriate down to 6 or 7 if the child likes creepy stories. It is roughly based on the idea of Hanzel and Gretel. Coraline finds the spirits of other children that have been captured before. And those spirits are dead. So be aware of the content warning.
Like many children’s books is revolves around the idea that the adults in their world are not able to save them. Coraline has to save not only herself, but her parents as well. I have heard adults complain that this common theme in children’s literature is anti-family. However, I think it is part of the growing up process. Children read about being independent before they are fully independent themselves.
Coraline is initially excited about her new family because she feels like her real family does not pay enough attention to her. But she soon comes to realize that her real family loves her for her, not for what she can do for them. In the end, Coraline returns to her family and is able to be a child again. There is a sense of security that even if she does not feel all the time throughout the book, it is understood that she should have this security.
Other Bookwi.se Reviews of Neil Gaiman
- American Gods
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman
- The Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman