Adventures with the Other Mother: Coraline

Image via Stainless Steel Droppings

Neil Gaiman

Delightful.  This book is perfect for autumn.  It’s not strictly Halloweeny, but with its crisp November breezes and the fall leaves, it practically bleeds autumn.  For some reason, things that would otherwise be creepy aren’t nearly as much so during fall.   Something about the season makes even the scariest things seem less intimidating.  This is particularly true of this book, perhaps even more so because of the faultless courage and honor of the little heroine.  She shines in a way every little girl should shine.

The plot:

Image Via Goodreads

Coraline is an adventurer (as all the best little girls are).  In her flat, there’s a door that opens onto a brick wall.  Her mother tells her that it’s the brick wall of the flat next door.  Coraline, however, learns otherwise in her adventures.  She learns that it opens to another world where her other mother and other father live.  They feed Coraline the best lunch she’s ever had and she finds that the black cat who usually haunts the back garden can talk in this world.  Despite having toys that move of their own volition, Coraline misses her regular mom and dad.  Coraline’s adventure is a sweeping tale as she searches for a way to free herself from the clutches of her other mother.

I love it.  Admittedly, it’s a little short (which is understandable since it’s a children’s book), but the story is perfect.  The things that little Coraline has to do in the story is such a lovely way to demonstrate the courage of children.  As an adult, when I read of children in danger, my auntie protection mechanism usually kicks in.  The way Coraline faces the danger she’s in with such cleverness and bravery, it’s endearing. I think my favorite part is that Coraline never falls for the other mother’s tricks.  She never believes that her parents are happier without her and to be frank, that’s refreshing.  It drives me crazy in some stories where the lead character is so willing to fall into the trap, to believe that the villain is telling the truth.  I understand that we all exist with a certain amount of doubt in your life, but come on, it’s not always reasonable to say that the very people who love you most were lying all the that time and are better off without you.  I would hope that most people wouldn’t fall for that tripe.  It’s delightful to come upon a story where the main character is almost entirely immune to the illusions presented to them.

I know I’ve said this before (in pretty much every Gaiman review I’ve written in the last month), but the language is just beautiful.  It’s like I’m watching a movie instead of reading a book.  The way he portrays Coraline’s neighbors in the other world is both creepy and artful.  Each of the characters is reduced to their most prominent parts.  Miss Spick and Miss Forcible, who live downstairs in the real world with their dogs, talking about acting and the stage, in the other world live in a theater whose attendees are all dogs.  The crazy old man who lives upstairs training mice to play musical instruments, lives in the attic with rats and is even crazier in the other world.  Gaiman does an amazing job of presenting whole people in the real world and amalgams of people in the other world.  It’s quite stunning.

I almost forget to include a word about the illustrations of this book.  They add so much to the creepiness factor to the story.  It’s one thing to imagine an other mother with extra long fingers and black button eyes.  It’s another thing entirely to see her face staring up at me from the page.  Of everything in the story, the illustrations did the most effective job of giving me the willies.

In the end, it’s a delightful tale and a very short read.  4 ink bottles.

Book Links:  Goodreads Page, Publisher’s Page


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