Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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You’ve probably heard of this title, perhaps better known as an animated film. The novel Coraline is often classed as a book for younger readers, but I think this one is for readers of a much wider age range. Neil Gaiman is well known for having little interest in categorizing books (if you haven’t heard his Make Good Art speech I highly recommend it! I have it in a pretty little coffee table book). For me it’s the first ‘children’s’ book I’ve read in a while and it made me feel warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. I love it.

The characters are superbly weird, and the setting of a creepy old house divided into apartments with wacky inhabitants is whimsical and even reminds me of other beloved children’s books like Tom’s Midnight Garden.

One of the main similarities to books like Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the presence of another world of sorts. Lucy went through the wardrobe, Tom went into outside into the garden when the clock struck thirteen, and Coraline goes through the door that, walled off with bricks, divides her family’s home from the empty apartments on the other half of their floor. On the other side of this door, when she is quite alone, she finds an alternate mirror world that reflects and distorts her world.

The most disturbing of these reflections is ‘the other mother’, accompanied by ‘the other father’. Both characters are distinguished from her real parents by their black button eyes. This ‘other mother’ is our villain, and has some serious Medusa vibes.

This book is the second book I’ve read recently with a cat guide character; the other being Sabriel. My favorite quote from the cat :

‘Cats don’t have names,’ it said.
‘No?’ said Coraline.
‘No,’ said the cat. ‘Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.’

As well as dealing with the idea of identity, we have the classic children-are-more-sensible-than-adults theme. I think this is one of the things that really made me feel nostalgic because it really is a huge part of most kids books. I hate to think what kind of reverse psychology must be going on there! Coraline’s parents are kidnapped by the other parents and it is up to her to rescue them.

Coraline wondered why so few of the adults she had met made any sense.

The ‘other mother’ thinks she can tempt Coraline into betraying her parents and joining her, but clearly underestimates a child’s sense of right and wrong and loyalty. She offers her what she thinks she wants: fun, adventure, attention, new toys and good food. All these things are solutions to complaints Coraline has had with her own family throughout the book, but she stays loyal to her parents and her own values.

Coraline definitely fits the profile of a children’s book but would be for older readers simply because it would probably give little ones nightmares about being kidnapped by button eyed versions of their parents. The lessons and ideas contained in it make it a worthwhile read regardless of your status as a child, teen or adult. Given the themes and intertextuality I also think it’s a good one to use as a teacher either as a thematic text or class studied text. Better yet, it can easily be read in one or two sittings!

Here is my favorite quote from this delightful book:

When you’re scared but you do it anyway, that’s brave.

I’m writing this on my phone in flight mode on a plane to Queenstown and typing up notes from my book journal (pictured in the photo). It’s a habit I’m trying to get into, and when I was reading Coraline I also post it noted quotes and copied them down. It’s my way of practicing what I preach as an English teacher! Turns out its harder than it looks, but very worthwhile. I leave New Zealand in a month to do some traveling with the husband and then eventually end up teaching in the UK (or at least that’s the plan) so I need to get used to posting these from on the road. Here’s a little snap of my view right now.

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I’m wondering whether to have a separate blog for travel or whether to just post little snippets here and there or even have dedicated posts here with a separate category or tag. Let me know if you have a preference and I’ll try to accommodate!

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That’s all from me! I rate this one pretty highly, a 5/5 because it was like a dream to read and I can’t really fault it. If you haven’t read it I totally recommend. As always, thanks for reading my humble little blog. Love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

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