Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

This is the graphic novel version of Gaiman’s classic children’s horror novel Coraline, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell. It received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist. The art is beautifully rendered (I especially love the coloring). The story is about a young girl who moves with her parents into a flat in an old mansion, also occupied by two old ladies who used to be actresses and an old man who is training a mouse circus. Her parents are very busy, and Coraline is often lonely. One day while exploring the flat she finds a door that leads to another version of her home, with an Other Mother and Other Father, who look just like her real parents except that they have black buttons instead of eyes. She discovers that the Other Mother has captured her parents, and must use all her resourcefulness and intelligence to free them and herself. Along the way she befriends a back-talking cat, the ghosts of three children who, like her, were stolen by the Other Mother, and the mice of the Mouse Circus. It’s a scary story, and the pictures emphasize every creepy detail.
As with any adaptation there are changes from the original novel. Russell leaves out some details (like the boy next door) and adds others (like a story about Coraline’s father saving her from a wasp nest). This is a good adaptation, though, and Mr. Russell keeps to the tone and spirit of the original.

Why I recommend this graphic novel:
Coraline is facing the same issues many children face: she is lonely, her parents and neighbors don’t understand her, she has to wear clothes she doesn’t like. When faced with challenges and real danger, Coraline doesn’t balk. She frankly admits her fear, but bravely does what she has to do. She learns important lessons: “I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really” (p. 133). She discovers her own hidden depths. And she gains a renewed appreciation for her family and a strong sense of self. Not only is this an excellent horror/adventure book for girls (and boys!), Coraline herself is a great role model for any young girl.

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. Adapted and illus. by P. Craig Russell. HarperCollins, 2009. Gr. 6-8

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