written by Neil Gaiman
illustrated by Dave McKean

Neil Gaiman's Coraline

Book review by Rosalyne Bowmile

Ages 8+

The Illusion

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence--something Coraline is soon to discover.

Coraline and her family have just moved into an old house, one converted into three flats. The house like many older homes is charming and full of character.

Coraline wakens to a wet miserable soggy day. Stuck inside she begins her exploration of the house. She begins with her count of all the windows and then the doors, unexpectedly finding one of the doors locked. This only tweaks her curiosity more. Fetching her mother who holds the key, she anxiously waits to see what is behind the closed door. To her disappointment, Coraline sees only a brick wall.

In the late afternoon Coraline finds herself returning to the door. Curiosity overrides any common sense. With a twist of the knob, she opens the door. Gone are the bricks and in their place a long narrow hallway.

Coraline stares in puzzled astonishment. She carefully places her foot over the threshold and steps into the hallway. Leaving behind her home, she looks around in awe, amazed by what she sees; a mirror image of her home with the same walls, rooms and kitchen. The only difference is this house is brighter and filtering through the air the delicious smell of roast chicken.

coraline's mom mckean cropped

Coraline ventures deeper inside where she’s greeted warmly by a woman who's been waiting for her arrival. It is uncanny how much she sounds like her mother. Even her appearance is the same only thinner, with large round black buttons for eyes.

Coraline’s excited by the abundance of toys and tasty food in this other house, which far exceeds what she has at home. She doesn’t see what’s hidden behind the illusion. It’s only when she wants to leave that she begins to see the cracks in the facade, which reveal a very different picture. Coraline begins to question if she’ll ever return to her house, or if this is her new destiny?

I’m a fan of mysteries, especially those sprinkled with a touch of horror. Coraline is all that and more. A whimsical imaginative story I enjoyed from page one, with its many twists and turns, and best of all an unexpected ending.

I found a strong correlation between Coraline and the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.

British author Neil Gaiman weaved an exciting story. Beneath the top layer were subtle messages, warnings of want and greed. Not all appears as seen on the surface. Be thoughtful of what you wish. You may already have the best right in front of you.

Neil Gaiman is a multi award-winning writer, who has earned the Hugo Nebula, Bram Stoker, Newbery and Carnegie medal in literature. Many of his books, including Coraline, are now movies.

I strongly recommend reading the book first before seeing the movie. Neil Gaiman’s characters are eccentric and quirky, and visually leap off the pages. It’s fun to imagine how they look, sound and act. His descriptions are so visual down to the minutest detail.

Complementing the story of Coraline are wonderful black-and-white illustrations done by British artist Dave McKean. His eye-popping drawings explode off the pages throughout the book.

Other titles by Neil Gaiman:

  • The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
  • M is for Magic
  • Wolves in the Walls
  • Interworld
  • The Graveyard Book
  • Stardust
  • Neverwhere
  • American Gods
  • Anansi Boys

Read more of Rosalyne's book reviews.

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