CORALINE by Neil Gaiman begins with his young heroine of the same name bored out of her mind. Her parents are workaholics and want to be left alone (always). Fortunately, Coraline is an explorer at heart, so she visits the crazy, old man in the flat above and the eccentric old ladies in the flat below, as well as the overgrown gardens of the lot. But the best adventure is yet to come when Coraline finds the skeleton key to a locked door in her family’s near-empty drawing room. What she finds on the other side is a home that mirrors her own – sort-of. At first it seems far more interesting. The “other mother” is quite attractive, with shiny button eyes, as is “the other father” and she is treated to a fine meal which she would not normally get at home. Angels and other moving toys flutter about her new room, which is nothing short of inspiring to the curious child. But things turn odd pretty quickly when the other mother wants Coraline to stay forever, under her complete control. When Coraline discovers it is all just a sinister game to the other mother, she enlists the help of a talking cat who comes and goes between the two grounds (the former of Coraline’s old yard and the creepy new one).
Gaiman’s tale is inventive, with uniquely frightening corners at each turn Young and old readers will delight in the fine prose, much in the simply eloquent style of author Kate DiCamillo (THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX), but far, far scarier. My guess is adults will be pretty freaked by the story, while children will adore being shocked as they’ve outrageous imaginations anyway.
An added note: I’m a slow reader, but read this story in one day, predicting Coraline would become a movie soon. Sure enough, the film using the voiceover of the young Dakota Fanning (wasn’t hard to predict that one either) is set to appear in theatres this January or February 2009. This story is sure to become a classic, and is much like a super-eery version of Alice in Wonderland.