Coraline

 
Strange, surreal tale sure to creep kids out.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This is a book that will certainly push kids' imaginations. The publisher has put out a nice reading guide for parents and teachers who want to analyze the plot more closely. Our "Families Can Talk About" section can give you some other ideas for sharpening those critical-thinking skills. 

Positive messages

Coraline finds the brave person inside of her -- and also learns to appreciate her own family. Toward the end of the book, she even says "I don't want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if we just got everything we wanted? Just like that, and it didn't mean anything. What then?"

Positive role models

Coraline is a pretty relatable character -- she gets bored, is picky about food, etc. -- but ultimately she acts bravely and uses her smarts to not only save herself but also others the Other Mother trapped, including her parents.

Violence & scariness

A rat is decapitated by a cat. Coraline is chased by weird creatures. There are lots of rats, spiders, clammy rooms, mysterious threatening beings, and other typical haunted house elements. 

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story is pretty creepy, and that they should take caution with sensitive kids: The central adventure is about a girl trying to save herself, her parents, and other trapped souls from the Other Mother in a secret world.  But this is a good choice for kids who want horror and whose parents would prefer it be well-written and not too gruesome. Coraline discovers a dark world crawling with rats, spiders, strange creatures, and others spookiness -- but through her creepy adventures she also discovers her own inner bravery.

What's the story?

In Coraline's new house, she discovers a door that sometimes opens onto a brick wall and sometimes doesn't. Venturing through, she discovers a world that mirrors her own, though the mirror is disturbingly distorted. There's more fun and better food, but her parents and neighbors are reflected with troubling differences. Returning to her own home, Coraline finds that her real parents are missing, only appearing in the hallway mirror. With the help of a cat that can talk in the mirror world, Coraline returns to rescue her parents -- as well as the souls of other children that she finds imprisoned in the world through the door -- from the fiendish Other Mother.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Author Neil Gaiman is well known in the world of adult literature, but this is his first book for children. It's a strange, surrealistic tale, fun for kids who like their stories creepy. The black-and-white illustrations by Dave McKean are correspondingly sinister. Not everything will make sense to young readers, nor will they find the emotional heart that marks children's classics -- but they will find Coraline to be a brave character who uses her smarts to not only save herself, but also others the Other Mother trapped. Plus, the plot rolls along fairly unpredictably -- and with a few good scares. Ultimately, not awe-inspiring, but entertaining enough.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can about scary stories. What makes them fun? Thinking of other chilling tales you've heard, can you think of anything they have in common?

  • This author often writes for adults. What do you think of him as a children's writer? What makes a book better suited for a kid or an adult? Or do you think this is one that both can enjoy?

Book details

Author:Neil Gaiman
Genre:Horror
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:April 1, 2004
Number of pages:162
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 14

This review of Coraline was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old August 16, 2009
age 9+
 

Best Neil Gaiman Book EVER!

This book is AMAZING!Some parts are a little creepy (other mother right hand!), but its a really great book! The plot is very intresting and the charecters are very smart. You must read this book!
Parent of a 1 and 6 year old Written byjandrewworld June 19, 2010
age 5+
 

I think it really depends on your child when they should read it.

Before the film came out, on my little girl's 5th birthday, we read the book together. I had actually bought the book when I was dating my wife. Children do not see it as scary as adults see it. In fact, they see it as a wonderful adventure, where it gives some adults nightmares. I think the quote at the beginning of the book, describes it the best; "It's not that we teach children that dragons are real, but we teach them dragons can be defeated."
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

you will never think of buttons in the same way again!

i LOVED this book but dont read it at night its REALLY creeeepy and kindof disturbing yet awesome. there was just this one part that scared me half 2 death: when Coraline went through the trap door and found the banished Other father...(shiver) i dont even wanna write about that scene, so go read it 4 urself lol. i didnt like how the author never really wrote about how Coraline felt, so i got the feeling that she was just calm throughout the whole thing...i would have been terrified to if i was her. i liked how he used marbles to symbolize the souls of the imprisoned children though. there was something special about the first marble, read carefully about the boy child to figure it out. the picture on the cover is also kindof creepy if u look close. i spent like 5 minutes just staring at it b4 i even started the book! this book was VERY freaky and kinda scary but just the right amount of depth. i liked the illustrations cuz they were so different than how i pictured things. overall, one word describes Coraline: FREAKISHLYAWESOMETASTICSPOOKYLICIOUS!!

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