By Hannah Smith, corps member serving at Condon Elementary School

I think Neil Gaiman is an author who gives his young readers a lot of credit. As mythical as his narratives are, Gaiman weaves in realism that respects the intelligence of his readers and reflects their real-life experiences.

Gaiman’s Coraline is a dark fairy tale engaging for all ages but is geared toward middle grade readers. Coraline is unhappy with moving to a new house and is disenchanted by her new oddball neighbors. Her parents are busy and brush off her. Lonely and left to her own devices, Coraline finds a door from her house to a parallel world. The setting and inhabitants look just like her house, her parents and neighbors—only seemingly better. She is never bored here, and the people in this new world are bent on entertaining and spending time with her. Yet the parallel home turns out to be a nightmarish trap of an otherworldly creature. From here it’s up to Coraline to save her family from an unspeakable fate.

Gaiman has a knack for portraying the confusion that adult world and adult’s behaviors cause for children. At the same time, however, he acknowledges the intelligence with which children often perceive adults.

Gaiman creates characters who are not simplified. They are often flawed and multidimensional with complex relationships. As in real life, these characters are seldom all-good or all-bad.His characters feel realistic to me. Coraline has personality quirks. She is cynical, a picky eater and a daydreamer. She grapples with the idea of courage and what it really means. Coraline begins her journey resentful toward her parents for paying more attention to her. By the end of the novel she comes to appreciate them and everything they do for her.

Gaiman’s whimsy and offbeat characters are pleasing to lovers of fantasy and horror. If your students enjoy reading this book they might also enjoy:

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