05 July 2011

Book Review Number 67: Coraline by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel)

It's been awhile since I've done book reviews, so please forgive me if I say things I've said before.  I'm trying to catch back up with them, in part because of the last swap that I'll be doing for awhile - the 2nd quarter book review.  Well, that and the fact that I really need to get back on top of this before I get really far behind.  So on with the review.

I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's.  Everything I've ever read or seen by him just totally rocks. If you haven't read his Sandman series, you should run right out and pick it up.  One of his best children's books (second only to The Graveyard Book, in my opinion) is Coraline. I've listened to the audio book and watched the movie and was amazed at what a chillingly wonderful story he'd written.  (And as a complete aside, I get completely creeped out by Lalaloopsy dolls.  I mean, really.  Look at this and tell me it wouldn't creep you out too if you'd read a story where people are trying to replace the main character's eyes with buttons?

*shudder* Anyway, back to the review.)

When my husband brought back the Coraline graphic novel from the library, I knew I'd have to check it out as soon as he was finished with it.  And I'm so glad that I did.  Because, much like the book and the movie, it was a chillingly wonderful story that had me excited to read from one panel to the next.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Coraline is a young girl who has moved into a flat in an old house with her parents.  Above them live an old man who is training a mouse circus.  Below them live a couple of older ladies that had been stars of the stage.  And next door is an empty flat.  Coraline's parents seem to have a benign neglect of their daughter, and the neighbors can't seem to ever get her name right.  One day, when Coraline is bored, she goes exploring and finds that through a locked door, she reaches a parallel world, ruled by the Other Mother.  At first, it seems like the perfect world for her.  But things are never what they seem.

The graphic novel follows the novel incredibly closely.  The artwork is wonderfully dark, evoking the mood that the story has to tell.  Coraline is just as inventive and precocious of a child as she is portrayed in the novel as well.  Her ability to see through the Other Mother (though it does take awhile) is something I wouldn't have expected in a child that so desperately wants to be seen as the girl she is rather than the one that others want her to be.

If you have kids that you want to try to get into reading, I would recommend this as a great starting point.  Being a graphic novel, it appeals to kids that still want pictures in their books but also gives them a complex story to get into.  I'm a big believer that graphic novels can be a great gateway drug into reading more complex stories, and graphic novelizations of other stories are even better for that.