Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coraline Book Review

Author: Neil Gaiman. Illustrator: Dave McKean. Release date: 2002. Publisher:  HarperCollins Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780380977789.

Annotation: Coraline Jones lives in humdrum life in an old Victorian mansion apartment with her parents. One day, however, she discovers a passageway leading to another world where everything is better than her own…or is it?

Personal thoughts: As a big fan of the movie, I was really interested in reading the book version of Coraline. I was not disappointed! Like the film, the story is just eerie enough to be enjoyable. I really enjoyed the drawings by Dave Mckean that accompanied the text. They added an element of creepiness to the story, even though I had visions of the film while reading it. I would highly recommend this novel to ‘tweens searching for something fun to read under the covers at night. An instant classic.
Plot summary: Coraline Jones isn’t thrilled when her parents move her into an apartment in an old Victorian house. Her neighbors, two elderly women named Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, and an eccentric old man, Mr. Bobo, don’t help her to feel at home either. Coraline’s parents don’t pay her much attention, so she spends most of her time exploring the creepy old house. One day, she discovers a small door in the wall that has been bricked up. Despite warnings from her neighbors that she is in danger, Coraline decides to explore the door further when she is alone. She soon discovers that the bricks are gone, and instead, a passageway is on the other side of the door leading to an apartment that is identical to her own. Living in the other apartment are her Other Mother and Other Father, also identical copies of her own parents but with buttons for eyes. Coraline learns that this Other World is far more interesting than her own, and spends more and more time there, becoming closer with her Other Mother and Other Father. One day, her Other Mother offers to let Coraline live in the Other World forever. Coraline considers the idea, until she learns that in order to stay she will have to have buttons sewn on her eyes. Coraline quickly escapes the Other World, only to discover that her real parents are missing. Has her Other Mother trapped them in the Other World?
Review: This novel, adapted into the hit 3D film of the same title, is a truly creepy but engrossing story that will spook even the bravest of young readers. Almost from the beginning of the story, it’s clear that something unearthly is in store for Coraline. The house she’s moved to is creepy, and when she discovers the Other World, things get even more suspicious. Although the Other World is, at first, delightful, something isn’t quite right. Why do her Other Mother and Other Father have buttons for eyes? Why does the Other Mother seem so urgent to have Coraline agree to live in the Other World forever? After Coraline’s parents are kidnapped and she must rescue them, things get even creepier. Several scenes when the Other World is beginning to unravel into the horrifying place it is are truly eerie, even for adult readers. ‘Tweens will delight in the scariness of Coraline’s predicament, however, particularly since it does turn out well in the end. Gaiman does a truly remarkable job of creating an unusual and entertaining story for all ages to enjoy. Coraline is likely to be a classic for years to come.
Genre: Fiction/Horror
Reading level: Grade 4+
Similar titles:  Coraline the graphic novel, illustrated by P. Craig Russell.
Themes: Bravery/overcoming fears, taking family for granted, “the grass is always greener” concept.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly. Winner of Hugo Award for Best Novella (2003), Nebula Award for Best Novella (2003), Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers (2002).  
Series Information: Film adaptation – Coraline (2009)

Discussion Questions:

- Have you ever wished you could live a different life? What about Coraline's life made her want to spend time with the Other Mother?
- Did you like Dave McKean's illustrations? Do you think they added to the story?
- Have you seen the film version of "Coraline"? If you have, what is different about the book? Which do you like better?
- Did you find this book to be creepy? Scary?
- Explain the concept behind the statement, "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." How does that relate to this book?

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