CoralineTitle: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
ISBN: 0380977788
Pages: 162 pages
Publisher/Date: HarperTrophy, c2002.

“Can I go outside?”
“What does your mother say?”
“She says you’re not going out in weather like that, Coraline Jones.”
“Then, no.”
“But I want to carry on exploring.”
“Then explore the flat,” suggested her father. “Look–here’s a piece of paper and a pen. Count all the doors and windows. List everything blue. Mount an expedition to discover the hot water tank. And leave me alone to work.” (7)

Coraline Jones, mistakenly called Caroline by all of her new neighbors, has just moved into a new house that they share with two former actreses and a crazy old man who claims to talk to his mouse circus. While exploring, Coraline discovers that the door in the drawing room which originally went nowhere now connects her to an alternate universe. She finds a world like hers, with an “other mother” and “other father” who want her to stay. They want her to stay with them so badly, they kidnap Coraline’s real parents. Coraline must now find her real parents in the fantastical world if she is ever to return to her real home.

Neil Gaiman does a fantastic job describing the worlds, both real and make believe. Coraline is smart, resourceful, and has an attitude to boot that makes her a remarkable character. There is real tension as the “other mother” tries again and again to thwart Coraline’s attempts to find her parents. Readers get a great glimpse at the other mother and her goal to make a life for herself. Gaiman nails the issue at hand when Coraline says “You really don’t understand, do you?… I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything. What then?” (120) But that’s the only time we hear it, preventing the work from getting preachy. I can’t wait to see the movie when it comes out in February. They’ve adapted this story to a graphic novel format in anticipation of the movie, and that’s been added to my list of must reads for this year.

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