Adrianna's Reviews > Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
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Jun 12, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: children, fantasy, horror
Recommended to Adrianna by: Jason Simone
Recommended for: Ages 8 and up
Read from May 04 to 29, 2010 , read count: 1

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."

--G. K. Chesterton

Coraline is one of the most unique children's books I have read in a long time. It's a quick read but what it lacks in length it makes up with quirky characters and ideas. It's not as developed as I would have liked; after all, it is a children's book. However, it's perfect for the recommended age group of eight and up. Coraline takes the reader on a fantastic journey thanks to the creative musings of author Neil Gaiman and the elaborate illustrations by Dave McKean.

The setting of the book is not unusual. There's a young girl named Coraline Jones who is utterly bored by her surroundings. She's ignored by her parents and often seeks adventures outside their flat to give herself something to do. Coraline's imagination and independence leads to a great discovery, what I deem "the Other Realm." This is when the setting truly gets interesting. I was fascinated by the concept of a parallel universe, especially since Gaiman introduces such a complex idea to children! Although these concepts aren't developed as they would be in an adult book, Gaiman provides enough suspense and action to hook the reader from the very beginning. The rest of the novel surrounds Coraline's adventures in the Other Realm as well as the friends and enemies she meets there. Some critics have compared this story to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass, but I disagree. The only similarity between the books is that the protagonists are young girls who travel to another world. What Alice discovers at the end is vastly different from the lessons Coraline learns. In fact, what makes Coraline stand out as an unique children's novel is the emphasis on dark fantasy, though both books have oddball supporting characters and humorous jokes.

In Coraline, the young girl whose name is the title is obviously the star. She's a funny protagonist because she is so different from those around her; she's special. She can't stand her father's cooking recipes preferring frozen food over the fancy adult stuff. She has no children her age to play with, and her older neighbors that live in the same house can't get her name right: "It's Coraline. Not Caroline" (4). She has rather absent-minded parents who are too caught up in their own lives to make time for Coraline's games. The wacky supporting characters include Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (former actresses who own lots of dogs), a crazy old man with a big mustache (and his circus mice), and the large black cat. Incidentally enough, the black cat was my favorite character, not Coraline. Again, the inclusion of a cat hearkens the reader back to memories of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass. However, I found the Cheshire Cat too playful for my tastes. This black cat is a sarcastic whirlwind with a sense of humor and wit that only an adult can truly appreciate. Still, he is a force to be reckoned with and an appropriate sidekick for Coraline as she battles the villains in the Other Realm. As the book progresses, the characters come to life in ways only Gaiman could think up.

With the help of unforgettable characters, Gaiman teaches young readers lessons about life. Coraline, already adventurous and independent, learns the meaning of courage, bravery, and selflessness as well as the importance of not trusting strangers, even in they resemble someone you love and trust. She fights for what is right and even comes face to face with the hardest life lesson: death. Neil Gaiman balances light and darkness (good and evil) and still manages to give kids what they desire and need at such a tender age without sacrificing the overall story-- a happy ending!

Since I have never seen the animated film, I cannot comment on the visual adaption. However with all the illustrations by Dave McKean, it felt as if I was watching a movie while reading the book. The images are haunting and added to the fear factor of the tale. I began reading this book at night. After two chapters in, I quickly realized that I could no longer continue this routine because I was scared! It wasn't just the writing that scared me; it was the illustrations. In looking through them again, my favorite one is found in chapter six. It's a picture of the Other Mother (one of the villains) with a black beetle in her mouth. Talk about gross!

Despite my own weak constitution, I could see myself reading this book to children even younger than eight. The story is captivating while the pictures are artistic and detailed. It's got enough creativity to excite without too many boring complications.

Because it is written for a younger audience, adults might feel dissatisfied with the lack of development or the fact that the Other Realm and its inhabitants are never really explained. They simply exist. Instead of complaining about the unreality of it all, I recommend reading Coraline as if it's a dark fairy tale. The realism is not needed simply because the story itself is a timeless fantasy. This quality is best expressed in Gaiman's own dedication: I started this for Holly. I finished it for Maddy.

No matter who is reading it or when, you are sure to find interesting and different adventures within the depths of these pages, such as an unending performance whose audience is comprised solely of dogs. Still, I suggest leaving lots of lights on as you read, or you might spook yourself or your child.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Kat  Hooper Great book, great review!

Adrianna Kat at FanLit wrote: "Great book, great review!"

Thanks, Kat! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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