Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gutsy CORALINE by Neil Gaiman

I was fortunate enough to grow up with a great mom who was also an amateur actress. This resulted in great bed-time stories and dramatic readings of picture books. My mom's talent, however, also led to some terrifying moments.

There were a few times (I don't know if I was annoying the crap out of her or what) when I was hanging out with Mom, maybe even curled up in her lap, and she'd snap.

She'd look down her nose at me with disgust and in a weird British accent say, "Mother? I am not your Mother! I have no idea what your talking about! I don't know who you are, little girl."

She'd keep it up for a few minutes, sometimes even pushing me away as I clawed at her, whimpering, "Mom! Stop!" Of course my pleading only egged her on more. This terrified me.

She'd then laugh and say she was just kidding, but I never thought it was funny.

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, brought the horror of these moments all back to me.

Do not be fooled, Junkies. Sure the book is thin, there are illustrations, the font is huge. Looks like a quaint little children's book. Looks can be deceiving.

This book may be the most frightening thing I've ever read (granted, I do not enjoy being scared and stay away from horror, or anything with a spooky cover).

I finished Coraline in one night because I never found a safe place to put it down.

Coraline is an only child who moves with her parents into a new house and is feeling a little neglected. She finds a door in the house with a wall of bricks behind it.

One day she opens the door and instead of bricks, she finds a passage way to another house that is almost identical to her house, and a mom and dad that are almost identical to her mom and dad.


The other mother has buttons for eyes and promises Coraline to love her, pay attention to her, and give her whatever she wants. The only thing is, the other mother needs to sew buttons onto Coraline's eyes.

Corlaine navigates her way through the eerie and grotesque alternate universe to save her parents and battle the other mother.

OK, forget the talking dogs, the killer rats, the sticky membrane filled with the neighbors. Just the whole idea of the other mother makes me think that Neil Gaiman is either a warped creative genius, hates children, or both.

It's been ten years since I lived with my mom, but the idea of the other mother trying to make me her daughter in her goth-version-of-Alice-in-Wonderland-only-way-more-f-ed-up world sent shivers down my spine.

But this is what makes Coraline such a great heroine. She's terrified, the reader is terrified, but Coraline faces her fear and fights to save her parents. Coraline learns that true bravery isn't lack of fear, but being scared and doing what's right despite that fear.
Gaiman's writing is clean, simple, and elegant. He doesn't beat around the bush, he just focuses on the story and the wacked-out world created by the other mother. Each sentence packs a punch in this story told by a smart, brave, no nonsense narrator, Coraline.

I wish I was as courageous as Coraline. If I opened a door in my living room and was faced with the other mother, I'd probably curl up in a ball and cry.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Alyson

    Coraline is one of 600 great titles we're aiming to profile on, where readers can add information, images, video, music and links to illustrate and explore favorite books.

    Right now, we're running a $3,000 Tournament and we'll be offering contract work to the best entries. Would you like to profile Coraline?

    Best wishes

    Hector Macdonald
    Editor, Book Drum