This graphic adaptation of Neil Gamain's delightfully creepy novella does an excellent job of retelling the story, but loses some of its power. Coraline, ignored by her parents and bored out of her wits in a new house, discovers a magic door to a parallel world in which her Other Mother, a sinister facsimile of her real mother with black button eyes, tries to trap her. With a combination of wits, luck, and help from her rather odd neighbors, Coraline manages to outwit the Other Mother and save her real parents.
By splitting up the text into small chunks, Russell loses some of the story's suspense, and the early parts of the narrative (before Coraline crosses through the magic door) are somewhat dull in a way Gaiman's prose on its own never let them be. Where the illustrations succeed, however, is in underscoring the transition from the real world into the nightmare world of the Other Mother--the realism of the illustrations very effectively highlights the uncanny nature of the mirror-world, and the monstrous Other-people are given all the grotesqueness that the comic book tradition can muster. The book doesn't pack the same punch as Gaiman's original with Dave McKean's occasionally terrifying illustrations, partly because they are more or less realistic. They accomplish the aforementioned unheimlich affect, but, as with the prose, rarely surprise the reader. Nevertheless, it's an interesting new interpretation for fans of the original. Recommended for ages 9 to 13.
Tags: graphic novel, horror, adaptation, neglectful parents, fantasy, child heroine, monsters, talking animals, middle school, comic fans