Monday, July 21, 2014

MMGM: Coraline

by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Dave McKean 
(January 24th   2002, HarperTrophy)

Book description: 

When Coraline Jones is home alone one day, she opens a mysterious door in the drawing room. Beyond, she finds a dark corridor that leads her to another house – just like hers, but better. There, she finds another mother and another father. They say they want to take care of her, to make her life interesting. There’s only one catch. They want Coraline to remain with them forever. 

Soon, the other mother captures Coraline’s real parents, and she must find a way to free them if she’s ever to return to her ordinary life.


Coraline is the type of book that’s perfect for a rainy day or when you want something subtly spooky. It reads like a modern fable, populated with archetypes that are somehow never flat. Coraline herself is such a refreshing heroine. She’s quiet – so a little ignored – clever, brave, and so intuitive. The other mother is an interesting, frightening antagonist whose obsession with keeping Coraline forever saturates the story with an understated but constant dread. Secondary characters like Miss Spink, Miss Forcible, Mr. Bobo, and the black cat – though somewhat one-note – are colorful, fun and witty respectively, and give the story a well-calibrated sense of whimsy. 

The plot, which explores themes of self, bravery, and want versus need, is intriguing, multi-layered, and never condescending. It also contains aspects of ambiguity (the other mother’s origins, for example) that serve to heighten the book’s other elements. Gaiman’s writing is spartan and allows the story to speak for itself, bolstering each episode’s emotion impact. 

Dave McKean's shadowy illustrations increase the creepy-factor exponentially, assisting the reader in conjuring up even scarier mental images.


Many portions of this book may actually be too frightening for the target audience.


Coraline merits instant classic status. Delightfully spooky and entrancing, it’s a contemporary fairytale with an abundance of heart.

Rating: (9.5/10)

Get it on Book Depository

For more excellent MG book recommendations, go to Shannon Messenger's blog.

Don't forget to comment, we love hearing from you!


  1. Love this one, but yes on being careful with the matching to young readers...have to love the scary!

  2. Yes, you're right, we actually mentioned that in the review. Thanks a lot for commenting!