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Coraline Mass Market Paperback – May 4, 2004
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“Coraline is by turns creepy and funny, bittersweet and playful…can be read quickly and enjoyed deeply.” (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review)
“A modern ghost story with all the creepy trimmings…Well done.” (New York Times Book Review)
“A magnificently creepy story…Coraline is spot on.” (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)
“Gaiman’s pacing is superb, and he steers the tension of the tale with a deft and practiced narrative touch.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, rise to your feet and applaud: Coraline is the real thing.” (Philip Pullman, The Guardian)
“The most splendidly original, weird, and frightening book I have read, and yet full of things children will love.” (Diana Wynne Jones)
“It has the delicate horror of the finest fairy tales, and it is a masterpiece.” (Terry Pratchett)
“An electrifyingly creepy tale likely to haunt young readers for many moons.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“ Walk through the door and you’ll believe in love, magic, and the power of good over evil.” (USA Today)
About the Author
Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Norse Mythology, Neverwhere, and The Graveyard Book. Among his numerous literary awards are the Newbery and Carnegie medals, and the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Will Eisner awards. Originally from England, he now lives in America.
Dave McKean is best known for his work on Neil Gaiman's Sandman series of graphic novels and for his CD covers for musicians from Tori Amos to Alice Cooper. He also illustrated Neil Gaiman's picture books The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, and Crazy Hair. He is a cult figure in the comic book world, and is also a photographer.
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i am by no means a book worm—i literally read math books and the bible and that’s it haha—but every time i read this book, there is even more suspense and the visualization of what is happening is BETTER than the movie. and i discover something new every time. i’ve been watching youtube videos to get other people’s take on the book and it’s just so fascinating.
so i urge you, join the conversation! you won’t regret it. :)
As this author likes to do, he paints an intriguing tale using both the strange and the familiar. Perhaps inspired by his own childhood reading the Narnia Chronicles and Alice in Wonderland, Coraline enters a strange world through a doorway to nowhere inside her home. The protagonist lives in an old mansion that was divided up into four flats. As part of the division, a doorway was bricked up but otherwise left intact. Two of the other flats are inhabited by curious adults who have interesting backgrounds and peculiar interests. But no other children. The fourth flat is vacant and this leaves Coraline wondering what it's like over in the vacant flat.
One day, she opens the odd door (that is usually full of bricks) and discovers a passageway to the "Other" world. Here she discovers her "Other" family who purport to be having a much more interesting and exciting life on this side of the flat. Coraline also meets her "other" neighbors who are even more intriguing and crazier versions of themselves than in the real world. However, there is also a hint that something is a little off, despite the seemingly gracious attitude of the inhabitants of the Other world. For one, they have buttons for eyes! Coraline is a clever girl and keeps her guard up refusing an invitation to stay in this Other world, but she's ultimately drawn back when her loved ones are kidnapped and imprisoned there. This story has all the "wonder" of Wonderland. Nothing is as it seems and all is fascinating in its absurdity.
Gaiman invents his own monsters and puts his own spin on this Other world adventure story that is reminiscent of stepping through the looking glass or through the furs in the oversized wardrobe. The tone of the story is what delivers its charm. It's dark and somber. Yet, despite the darkness, the author manages to keep it light enough for its intended younger audience. Like other masters of the genre, he manages to ride that line where the book is enjoyable for both adults as well as children. Gaiman keeps an element of danger and scary things in the Other world without becoming overly graphic. It's just the right touch. Quite a feat. Not too mention, refreshing.
The setting is very small. It takes place almost entirely in Coraline's home (and the "Other" version of it). This is very relatable. Gaiman really manages to capture the child's perspective of Coraline roaming around her home and the grounds outside. Everything feels big and adventurous. It makes me think about being a youngster myself and exploring different rooms in my grandparents' homes during family parties. How big a house can seem when you're so young...there always seemed to be a mysterious room or door that I might not have noticed before.
Even little touches like Coraline's dislike of her father's cooking feels authentic and in character. Coraline has a real voice in her thoughts, actions and words. Her parents too. They're busy, as parents often are, but they still manage to make time for her and convey a sense of love and doting.
Gaiman has a way of using his words sparingly but he still conveys a sense of place. He seems to find just the right touchstones to get his point across. This makes the story easier for younger readers, but also meaningful and solid for older readers. When you read authors like this, you know within the first page the lighthearted depth that is being conveyed. You're immediately swept up by the words and transported into a new world. It's a great feeling.
By touching on some classic tropes i.e. portals to strange worlds hidden from our own world, sassy talking cats, and smooth talking sirens (who are just a little too nice) - we are easily coaxed off the pages and transported beyond. However, Gaiman has his own perspective on this, and his unique twists and particular details take the old familiar and make it new again.
This feels like a short novella. A fast read. It quickly strikes a mood and sets the stage for a dark, adventurous fairy tale. Definitely recommended.
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes or our website.
However, I wouldn't allow my 10 yr old daughter to read this. It seems like the message is, "You have to solve your problems all by yourself because there is no one who can help you." I don't want my child being told that. Children need to be able to (and be encouraged to) approach the trusted adults in their life for help.
Top international reviews
The story, of course, centres around the summer holiday adventures of its titular heroine - young Coraline Jones - who, along with her mother and father, has moved into one of the flats in a ramshackle old house in the wilds of the country. Coraline's parents work from home but are busy people; and as I suspect is the case with many youngsters nowadays, they just don't seem to have enough time in the day to spare their daughter the attention she craves. Her mother automatically buys Coraline 'sensible' clothes - never the clothes her daughter actually wants to wear; and her father - a worryingly clueless sort of 'home husband' - is an experimental but terrible cook, and never serves anything to table that Coraline wants to eat.
The upstairs flat is occupied by the eccentrically acrobatic Mr Bobo - a moustachioed Eastern European with a penchant for training a troublesome musical mouse circus; the downstairs flat is shared by two ageing but rather highly strung former thespian spinsters - Miss Forcible and Miss Spink - together with their phlegmatic Highland Terriers: Hamish, Andrew, and Jock. But diverting though these neighbours may at first appear, is it any wonder that a bold and curious young girl like Coraline should want to go adventuring - exactly as a haughty black cat asserts his right to go wandering far and wide about the place, as though he owns it?
It's then that Coraline becomes captivated by the carved, brown wooden door in the drawing room - a locked door, which when released shows only a plain brick wall... Or does it...? In fact, the door leads to another world entirely - and to another house, which looks very much like her own. It also leads to another kindly father and another doting mother, neither of whom can seemingly do enough for lonely little Coraline - providing her with feasts of delicious food and the brightly coloured clothes she has always most desired; but just one thing:
Why do these alternative parents both have large and shiny-bright black buttons, sewn into place where their eyes must once have been...?
I won't go into much more detail about the plot because that would surely spoil the experience for those coming to the novel afresh. Suffice it to say that Coraline has quite a torrid time of it in trying to escape from her 'Other Mother' (otherwise known as the mysterious 'Beldam'), and that - with the help of one very formidable black cat, as previously mentioned - tries endlessly to return to her real mother and father, with whom she now desperately longs to be reunited.
'Coraline' is, of course, a typically imaginative piece of fiction from the distinguished and individual mind of Neil Gaiman. What really works in its favour, I think, is that Mr Gaiman thankfully refrains from those sensational excesses that too often find their way into his adult fictions for no better reason than their shock value, but which often end up being something more of a blight than a blessing. 'Coraline' can, in fact, be rightly celebrated for being a joyously restrained creation - a book about which no parent need concern themeselves too much when it comes to letting their children read it independently. I must also commend the illustrations by Chris Riddell, which grace the 10th Anniversary Edition that I bought - though perhaps the confined reading medium of my Kindle didn't quite do them justice!
A guaranteed page turner!
There's only one thing she hasn't explored: the little door in the spare room where her grandmother's furniture is kept 'for best'. Her mother begrudgingly unlocks and opens the door to show a brick wall where it blocks off the empty flat next door. When her mother is out shopping Coraline unlocks the little door herself for another look. Instead of opening onto a brick wall, the door opens to reveal a long dark corridor. Curiosity gets the better of her and she crawls through it.
On the other side of the corridor she crawls out into the flat she just left, but it's different somehow. Her parents are there, but they are different. The Other Mother is taller, thinner, 'her teeth a little too long' and her hair flows around her head. And in the place of eyes are two shiny black buttons. She cooks Coraline the food she always loves, in her other bedroom is a toybox full of toys she loves and in her wardrobe all the kinds of clothes she loves. This world is more interesting and fun, and her parents want to spend time with her. The black cat hasn't changed much in the other world, but it can speak. It tells her to not trust this world and not trust the Other Mother. Everything is not as it seems.
And that is how the little girl spirals into this dark web crafted by the Other Mother to keep her here for herself. What does she really want? Why is she trying to get rid of the cat, 'that vermin', who is the only one telling her any truths?
This is a wonderfully wicked tale that will creep out the adults and fascinate the children. It is one of my favourite books, and if you loved the film you will love this even more as there are differences that strengthens the original story. Extra note: once you've read the book, if you want more then search for 'Coraline theories' on youtube for plenty more mysteries.
As with all adaptations, the stop motion film varies slightly from the story in this book, however, I still found myself thoroughly engaged in Coraline Jones adventure through the door to the Other Place and even found my breath held in tension at times.
I downloaded the audio version narrated by Neil Gaiman himself and found that it also differed from the book; I think it was "Americanised" as there were little word changes (flashlight said instead of the torch that was printed, distance was narrated in imperial instead of the metric that was printed, etc) and slight sentence restructures. Having said that, I loved the way Mr Gaiman read his story, the pace of his speech and his tonal inflections; his performance helped to immerse me in the adventure.
Coraline is one of my favourite films, I watch it every Halloween and I am overjoyed to say that it's also one of my favourite books now too.
Coraline discovers a little door in the new house she's moved into, which leads her to her other mother who has big black buttons for eyes... It's thoroughly weird and captivating all at once and the drawings by Chris Riddell are so creepy (except the cat) and definitely add to the reading experience.
My favourite character is definitely the cat!! He's so the star of the show and so sassy I love it. It's definitely a book worth reading and a film worth seeing! A fantastic story and did I say how awesome the cat is?
Now this could be a pretty unpopular opinion, but I'm going to start off by saying that I enjoy the film just a little bit more than I enjoyed the book, but that doesn't mean the book isn't brilliant. The film took an already amazing story and fleshed it out, not to mention I have something of a soft spot for stop motion films. Again, blame it on my eternal love for The Nightmare Before Christmas.
I love Gaiman's stories. From American Gods to Stardust to The Graveyard Book he just has this wonderful ability for creating stories you feel as though you could step into, each with that signature weirdness that no one can quite describe but is unique to him. Needless to say, Coraline is another story I love; if I'd read this as a child it would have had me sleeping with the light on for weeks, because frankly the Other Mother is probably one of Gaiman's creepiest villains.
Reading this very much reminded me of my childhood, reading fairy tales and other children's stories that began my love for speculative fiction and magical realism, but it was this fairy tale quality that also caused the biggest problem for me. Because Coraline read very much like a fairy tale, there didn't seem to be much depth to any of the characters which was a shame. Having said that, I still really, really enjoyed the story and I'm glad I finally read it. If I ever have children of my own, I'll definitely be reading this to them before they go to bed...
I had no idea that the film 'Coraline' was actually based on a book until a couple of months ago!
The book is more detailed and paints a better picture than the actual film.
Whether you've seen the film or not, this book is definitely a must read!
Would I recommend? Yes!
Would I read it again? Probably only once or twice more, but that's mainly down to personal taste than there being anything wrong with the actual story!
Since purchasing this book, I have started a Neil Gaiman collection!
And the hand in the end! You just have to read it to find out all the quirky stuff. And it will only take you half a day. This creepy, a bit frightening tale is an absolute pleasure to read. It is fast paced and very well written. I highly recommend to share "Coraline" with children - but beware, there might be a few sleepless nights in store for them. Compared to The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which I absolutely loved!), I think Coraline is much more suitable for younger readers (I found the slow-motion film was actually scarier than the book).
Enjoyed and recommended!
P.S. I wish I had a paper copy of the book to treasure - the illustrations are beautiful.
Gaiman creates great imagery to help bring the story along, and the pace is maintained throughout. The story has a bit of magic about it, and the parallels with Alice in Wonderland are there for all to see, although there is enough originality to keep it feeling fresh. Perhaps because I have just soldiered through Don Quixote, but reading this feels like floating on air rather than wading through treacle. I polished it off in less than 24 hours.
My daughter is seven, so probably a bit young for this, but I can see my kids enjoying this too when they are older, and I look forward to reading it with them.
was mildly disturbing. The book is very different to the film but I love this story all the same. The secret door, the emotionless black button eyes, the beldam world, the whole concept. It's thrilling.
I admit I am a huge fan of the film and have watched it numerous times. There is actually more added to the film as the book is only around two hundred pages, however this did not disappoint me in the least.
Coraline is jam packed full of various themes, beautifully haunting imagery, and colourful characters. It also had a frightful scene including the Other Father that I will unashamedly say scared me witless.
Gaimans prose is also luscious and beautiful. This is the first and only book of his that I have read so far (The Graveyard Book is sitting patiently on my shelf) and was one of my best reads of the year. He speaks directly to you in third person but not down to you; he tells you stuff but not in a preachy way at all, we learn it along with Coraline, who would be an adventurer's dream to explore with!
Coraline is a modern gothic fairtale with a refreshingly active protagonist. A little warning this book (and its illustrations) may frighten the much younger ones. Five stars all the way.