Coraline by Neil Gaiman is a deliciously scary children’s novel that is destined to become an absolute classic. Think Clive Barker for kids, but with a sense of humour and you’re about there.
***SLIGHT PLOT SPOILER ALERT***
Coraline’s family has moved into a new flat. Her parents are too busy to talk to her so she explores the building and grounds on her own, meeting her new neighbouts who all get her name wrong. Then one rainy day, she discovers the door that used to lead through to the empty flat on the other side of hers which at first is bricked up. But later she returns to find a passageway through it into an alternate sort of mirror image world where her ‘other’ mother and father live and would love to pander to her every whim if only she’d stay. There’s just one condition – her mother would have to replace her eyes with big black buttons … The creep factor goes up and up, until alarm bells really start ringing as her evil others kidnap her real parents. With the help of a friendly black cat, and her lucky talisman, Coraline must outwit the nasty others to rescue them.
Many have compared Coraline to Alice in Wonderland, but whereas Alice was psychedelic but never really dangerous, Coraline is the stuff of nightmares come to life – Coraline’s peril appears very real indeed. Gaiman’s unfussy style ensures that it is totally readable, and yet it paints a very clear picture indeed of what’s happening. The dustjacket suggests for 8yrs and upwards, but younger children may find it too scary to read on their own perhaps.
At 176 pages, it was just right to be read in one session for an adult though, and hopefully there will be no scary afterthoughts, although I may think twice before buying anything with big black buttons… I’m now hugely looking forward to the animated film due out in the UK in May, which has had a five star write-up in Empire Magazine already.