Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Neil Gaiman


Coraline Jones is fed up with being ignored and misunderstood by the adults around her. When her family move into part of a big house the neighbours get her name wrong and talk nonsense. Her father makes the kind of food she hates. Her mother buys her horrid school clothes and won't get her the brightly-coloured gloves she wants. And both her parents are too busy with work to pay her any attention.

Coraline may be small for her age and too fond of junk food, but she is good at exploring. She soon finds a door that doesn't appear to go anywhere. But when her parents are out she checks the door again, only to find that it does lead somewhere, and she's too curious to keep away. Through the corridor she finds a house that mirrors her own, only it's occupied by people with buttons for eyes, including someone who says she is Coraline's Other Mother. These button-eyed people treat her extraordinarily well.

The other house seems very pleasant at first, but it holds a sinister secret. Coraline risks being trapped forever by her Other Mother unless she can outwit her and discover what has been hidden in the Other House and garden.

The story draws some parallels with Alice In Wonderland. As Coraline ventures through the corridor it's rather like Alice going down the rabbit hole and into a dream-like world. A creepy, gothic atmosphere prevails. With a talking cat, a mouse circus, a couple of batty retired actresses, ghosts, and whole lot more, Coraline overflows with delightful weirdness and surprises. Yet Neil Gaiman manages to extract most of the humour from the everyday situations Coraline finds herself in.

This novel is so much more than a bizarre collection of crazy goings-on in a house full of eccentrics. The moral points are clear and well-made. Coraline may have no-one but herself to rely on much of the time, but she shows courage by standing up to her fake mother. The Other Mother can be seen as a symbol for all the snake oil sellers and scammers waiting to lure the unwary with fabulous promises and offers of whatever one may desire. Yet Coraline ultimately learns that some things are more important to her than instant gratification.

This is a brilliantly witty book, inventive and deceptively clever. Its short length and fast pace make it accessible for fairly young readers, whilst its depth and humour give the story a much broader appeal.

Book Details

Year: 2002

Categories: Books

  Kids     Fantasy
  Female Protagonist  

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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Neil Gaiman