Neil Gaiman,
illustrated by Dave McKean
(HarperCollins, 2002)

Neil Gaiman began writing Coraline for his daughter, Holly. Now available to a much wider audience, Coraline is touted as a story for "children of all ages." This is quite correct, although I think adults will find it more disturbing than children. In any case, Gaiman fans will be thrilled by his foray into the fantastical world of children's literature.

Coraline (not Caroline!) is a bright little girl who has recently moved into a new flat (read "apartment" for Americans) with her parents. In the course of her explorations she discovers a door that opens to a brick wall. Her mother explains that when the house was turned into flats, the door was bricked up rather than being removed completely. But Coraline hears mysterious noises at night, and when she returns to the door during a very boring afternoon, she finds it open -- an entryway leading to what appears to be her own flat.

However, the mother on the other side of the door is not her proper mother. Her skin is too white and her fingernails are too long. Coraline, though sometimes ignored by her parents when they are busy, instantly realizes that it's an imposter. Cleverly, Coraline escapes, only to discover that her real parents have disappeared. With the help of a talking cat, Coraline deals with the disturbing and fascinating other-mother.

Gaiman has created a deliciously spooky and delightfully dark story of mystery, horror and courage in the face of evil. The tale sweeps you away into his strange otherworld, where nothing exists outside of the realm of the other-mother, and Coraline must solve the mysteries posed by the disappearance of her parents and the appearance of three ghost children.

This book is recommended for children ages 8 and older, but I would strongly suggest that parents read this book first (well, for your own enjoyment too!) before deciding if it is right for your child. Dave McKean's haunting illustrations add flair and depth to the book. I loved and enjoyed Coraline thoroughly, and anyone who liked Neverwhere will find this just as fascinating.

[ by Beth Derochea ]
Rambles: 7 June 2002

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