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2 Hawthorne Children's Middle Readers- General

Coraline

by

Coraline Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Fairy Tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
G.K. Chesterton

Chapter One

Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.

It was a very old house — it had an attic under the roof and a cellar under the ground and an overgrown garden with huge old trees in it.

Coraline's family didn't own all of the house, it was too big for that. Instead they owned part of it.

There were other people who lived in the old house.

Miss Spink and Miss Forcible lived in the flat below Coraline's, on the ground floor. They were both old and round, and they lived in their flat with a number of ageing highland terriers who had names like Hamish and Andrew and Jock. Once upon a time Miss Spink and Miss Forcible had been actresses, as Miss Spink told Coraline the first time she met her.

"You see, Caroline," Miss Spink said, getting Coraline's name wrong, "Both myself and Miss Forcible were famous actresses, in our time. We trod the boards, luvvy. Oh, don't let Hamish eat the fruit cake, or he'll be up all night with his tummy."

"It's Coraline. Not Caroline. Coraline," said Coraline.

In the flat above Coraline's, under the roof, was a crazy old man with a big moustache. He told Coraline that he was training a mouse circus. He wouldn't let anyone see it.

"One day, little Caroline, when they are all ready, everyone in the whole world will see the wonders of my mouse circus. You ask me why you cannot see it now. Is that what you asked me?"

"No," said Coraline quietly, "I asked you not to call me Caroline. It's Coraline."

"The reason you cannot see the Mouse Circus," said the man upstairs, "is that the mice are not yet ready and rehearsed. Also, they refuse to play the songs I have written for them. All the songs I have written for the mice to play go oompah oompah. But the white mice will only play toodle oodle, like that. I am thinking of trying them on different types of cheese."

Coraline didn't think there really was a mouse circus. She thought the old man was probably making it up.

The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring.

She explored the garden. It was a big garden: at the very back was an old tennis court, but no-one in the house played tennis and the fence around the court had holes in it and the net had mostly rotted away; there was an old rose garden, filled with stunted, flyblown rose-bushes; there was a rockery that was all rocks; there was a fairy ring, made of squidgy brown toadstools which smelled dreadful if you accidentally trod on them.

There was also a well. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, on the first day Coraline's family moved in, and warned her to be sure she kept away from it. So Coraline set off to explore for it, so that she knew where it was, to keep away from it properly.

She found it on the third day, in an overgrown meadow beside the tennis court, behind a clump of trees — a low brick circle almost hidden in the high grass. The well had been covered up by wooden boards, to stop anyone falling in. There was a small knot-hole in one of the boards, and Coraline spent an afternoon dropping pebbles and acorns through the hole, and waiting, and counting, until she heard the plop as they hit the water, far below.

Coraline also explored for animals. She found a hedgehog, and a snake-skin (but no snake), and a rock that looked just like a frog, and a toad that looked just like a rock.

There was also a haughty black cat, who would sit on walls and tree stumps, and watch her; but would slip away if ever she went over to try to play with it.

That was how she spent her first two weeks in the house — exploring the garden and the grounds.

Her mother made her come back inside for dinner, and for lunch; and Coraline had to make sure she dressed up warm before she went out, for it was a very cold summer that year; but go out she did, exploring, every day until the day it rained, when Coraline had to stay inside.

"What should I do?" asked Coraline.

"Read a book," said her mother. "Watch a video. Play with your toys. Go and pester Miss Spink or Miss Forcible, or the crazy old man upstairs."

"No," said Coraline. "I don't want to do those things. I want to explore."

"I don't really mind what you do," said Coraline's mother, "as long as you don't make a mess."

Coraline went over to the window and watched the rain come down. It wasn't the kind of rain you could go out in, it was the other kind, the kind that threw itself down from the sky and splashed where it landed. It was rain that meant business, and currently its business was turning the garden into a muddy, wet soup.

Coraline had watched all the videos. She was bored with her toys, and she'd read all her books.

She turned on the television. She went from channel to channel to channel, but there was nothing on but men in suits talking about the stock market, and schools programmes. Eventually, she found something to watch: it was the last half of a natural history programme about something called protective coloration. She watched animals, birds and insects which disguised themselves as leaves or twigs or other animals to escape from things that could hurt them. She enjoyed it, but it ended too soon, and was followed by a programme about a cake factory.

It was time to talk to her father.

Coraline's father was home. Both of her parents worked, doing things on computers, which meant that they were home a lot of the time.

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readersrespite, January 27, 2009 (view all comments by readersrespite)
Young Coraline isn't all that happy with her life. Her parents work too much and, as young children are wont to be, she's bored. But when she discovers her alternate life behind a hidden door, she begins to think that her real life isn't so bad. Evil lurks behind every corner as Coraline tries desperately to regain her "old" life.

Advertised for ages eight and up, Coraline is, for all intents and purposes, a horror book for kids. Scary, but without the gore.

And although I haven't interviewed any eight year olds on the matter, I suspect Gaiman largely succeeds in scaring the pee out of them. The alternate world Coraline stumbles into strangely mirrors her own, containing another set of parents who, despite their outward declarations of love and devotion, don't seem quite right. (Black buttons instead of eyes are a pretty big clue here.)

The alternate world Gaiman creates is quite well thought-out. And while the themes of the novella may not be original, the conveyance of it certainly is.

As rich as the plot is, however, there is something lacking in Coraline. We know she is a kind girl and even quite a smart girl. But that's about all we ever get to know. Ultimately, she's rather one-dimensional in a cardboard cutout sort of way. Perhaps this was by design, but I missed getting to know Coraline.

Hmmmmm. Here's the brutal truth: the thrill just wasn't happening for me. By no means is this an awful book. It won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, and the Bram Stroker Award.

I read it. I didn't hate it. But neither am I running out and buying copies for every kid I know. Maybe I missed something. It's been known to happen.

I do, however, have high hopes for the forthcoming film version.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060575915
Author:
Gaiman, Neil
Publisher:
HarperTrophy
Illustrator:
McKean, Dave
Author:
McKean, Dave
Author:
by Neil Gaiman
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
Children's 9-12 - Fiction - Science Fiction
Subject:
Horror & Ghost Stories
Subject:
Supernatural
Subject:
Suspense/Thriller
Subject:
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - Horror
Subject:
Children s All Ages - Fiction - Science Fiction
Subject:
General Juvenile Fiction
Subject:
Fantasy & Magic
Subject:
Children's stories, English
Subject:
General History
Subject:
Children s-Scary Stories
Subject:
Family - Parents
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback
Publication Date:
20040531
Binding:
MASS MARKET
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
7.625 x 5.125 in 6.16 oz
Age Level:
12-17

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Related Subjects


Children's » Middle Readers » General
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Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z

Coraline Used Mass Market
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$5.95 In Stock
Product details 224 pages HarperTrophy - English 9780060575915 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Coraline and her parents have moved to a new flat. One rainy day, with her parents too busy to entertain her, Coraline takes her father's suggestion and begins exploring her new house from top to bottom. She discovers a curious, locked door in the drawing room, and when her mother unlocks it, they find a brick wall left over from the days when the house was divided into apartments. But after a night filled with shadows and strange noises, Coraline becomes convinced that there is more to the drawing-room door. The next time she unlocks it, she discovers an apartment on the other side — a skewed version of her own, complete with an "Other Mother" and an "Other Father," just like her own parents except for their shiny button eyes. Coraline thinks at first that she has found a place filled with everything that she could ever want — but quickly realizes that the dark world she has discovered is less substance and more shadow. When her "Other Mother" kidnaps Coraline's real parents, she must use all of her wits and the help of some friends to try to save them all.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Those of you who are tired of waiting for a new Harry Potter novel might do well to pick up this little gem. Young Coraline finds a secret passage that leads her to a living nightmare. This book is scary, but not too scary, a little creepy, and very funny. Kind of like a good old-fashioned ghost story or fairy tale. The wonderful illustrations by Dave McKean bring Gaiman's tale vividly to life.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Coraline and her parents have moved to a new flat. One rainy day, with her parents too busy to entertain her, Coraline takes her father's suggestion and begins exploring her new house from top to bottom. She discovers a curious, locked door in the drawing room, and when her mother unlocks it, they find a brick wall left over from the days when the house was divided into apartments. But after a night filled with shadows and strange noises, Coraline becomes convinced that there is more to the drawing-room door. The next time she unlocks it, she discovers an apartment on the other side — a skewed version of her own, complete with an "Other Mother" and an "Other Father," just like her own parents except for their shiny button eyes. Coraline thinks at first that she has found a place filled with everything that she could ever want — but quickly realizes that the dark world she has discovered is less substance and more shadow. When her "Other Mother" kidnaps Coraline's real parents, she must use all of her wits and the help of some friends to try to save them all.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Those of you who are tired of waiting for a new Harry Potter novel might do well to pick up this little gem. Young Coraline finds a secret passage that leads her to a living nightmare. This book is scary, but not too scary, a little creepy, and very funny. Kind of like a good old-fashioned ghost story or fairy tale. The wonderful illustrations by Dave McKean bring Gaiman's tale vividly to life.

"Review" by , "[Neil Gaiman] is, simply put, a treasure house of story, and we are lucky to have him in any medium."
"Review" by , "I think this book will nudge Alice in Wonderland out of its niche at last. It is the most splendidly original, weird, and frightening book I have read, and yet full of things children will love."
"Review" by , "This book will send a shiver down your spine, out through your toes, and into a taxi to the airport. It has the delicate horror of the finest fairy tales, and it is a masterpiece."
"Review" by , "This book tells a fascinating and disturbing story that frightened me nearly to death. Unless you want to find yourself hiding under your bed, with your thumb in your mouth, trembling with fear and making terrible noises, I suggest that you step very slowly away from this book and go find another source of amusement, such as investigating an unsolved crime or making a small animal out of yarn."
"Review" by , "Delicate and extraordinary, it reads like Alice in Wonderland crossed with Stephen King..."
"Review" by , "A modern ghost story with all the creepy trimmings....Well done."
"Review" by , "[M]agnificently creepy....[S]ome deliciously eerie descriptive writing. Not for the faint-hearted — who are mostly adults anyway — but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on."
"Review" by , "By turns creepy and funny, bittersweet and playful...can be read quickly and enjoyed deeply."
"Review" by , "[A]n electrifyingly creepy tale likely to haunt young readers for many moons....Gaiman twines his taught tale with a menacing tone and crisp prose fraught with memorable imagery..."
"Review" by , "Not since Narnia has the simple act of opening a door unlocked such a fantastic journey. And not since Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole has that journey been so splendidly strange and frightening."
"Review" by , "Inventive, scary, thrilling, and finally affirmative. Readers young and old will find something to startle them."
"Review" by , "Beautifully spooky. Gaiman actually seems to understand the way children think."
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