Saturday, May 14, 2011

Coraline -spoiler alert-

Gaiman, Neil. (2004). Coraline (Kindle Edition). D. McKean. New York: HarperCollins e-books

Literary Genre: Fantasy (Chapter Book) 

Coraline Jones just moved into a new large house with her mother and father. The house is so large that the Jones’ share it with others. Coraline is an explorer and her parents are always busy on their computers, so it isn’t long before she starts to explore the house and meet her neighbors. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, “both old and round,” live in the flat below Coraline’s family with a number of Highland terriers. A crazy old man who is training mice for a mouse circus occupies the flat above Coraline’s family. After several rainy days, Coraline becomes bored. She counts ever door in her flat and stumbles upon a door that leads to a creepy parallel world.

In this creepy parallel world, Coraline has an “other mother” and “other father”. Her “other” parents and “other” neighbors resemble the real parents and neighbors only they are taller, thinner, and have black buttons for eyes. The “other mother” is the creator of this world and she very much wants Coraline to have black button eyes and remain with her forever. Although, this other world has better food, magical toys, a talking cat, and more attentive parents, Coraline does not wish to stay this other world. The “other” mother hides Coraline’s real parents in an attempt to lure Coraline but Coraline reverses the roles and challenges her “other” mother instead. With the help of the talking cat, and the ghosts of three children trapped in the shadows of a magical mirror, Coraline manages to escape her “other” mother’s creepy world with her parents and the souls of the ghost children. However, when the “other” mother’s bony hand follows her into the real world Coraline must face her “other” mother alone. Is she successful? You must read this magically creepy tale told from Coraline’s perspective to find out.

When I first started reading this book, I really struggled with how creepy it was. I could only read a few pages at a time and I even had some nightmares about my own son encountering his “other” mother. When, the Coraline discovers that her parents are missing through the magical mirror, it felt more like a scene from an episode of Criminal Minds not a scene from a children’s book. But once, Gaiman introduced Coraline’s challenge, the story transformed into an adventure and I was then able to root for Coraline. The guidance Coraline receives from the talking black cat reminds of Binx, the talking black cat from the movie, Hocus Pocus. Coraline is most definitely a memorable piece of literature. Coraline has a distinct honest voice that readers will be able to relate to. The book reads almost like a fairy tale, the language is descriptive enough for readers to visualize the unfolding tale, yet simple enough for younger readers to understand. The creepiness of the text is in part due to Gaiman’s amazing ability to make this “other” world seem possible, which is a critical element of quality fantasy. Coraline’s story is full of action, believable characters, creativity, and extraordinary elements which paired with Gaiman’s language and McKean’s black ink sketches makes a captivating realistic fantasy that interests readers.

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