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Think Alice in Wonderland as written by Stephen King, and you’ll have an idea of what to expect of Stardust author Neil Gaiman’s “children’s book” Coraline . . .

Gaiman’s book is currently being made into a 3-D CG animated movie by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. One poster on Internet Movie Database who has read the book complains that Gaiman’s book should be made into a live action movie instead of an animated movie.

The only problem is that if Coraline were to be live action, it’d be a horror movie unsuitable for children. As it is, Coraline is pretty darned scary and one can easily imagine it giving children nine years and older nightmares. It is not exactly bedtime reading for the very impressionable. Then again, readers accustomed to the toned-down Walt Disney animated movie of Alice In Wonderland are usually surprised by just how downright malicious and surreal Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s classic can be . . .

Like Alice, Coraline – the titular heroine of Gaiman’s book – travels to a surreal upside down world from which she tries to escape again. Coraline and her parents move into a new apartment. The apartment was part of a much bigger house and there is a brick wall where a door used to be. Except, one day the brick wall has disappeared and Coraline goes through it. On the other side she finds a skewed version of her own reality presided over by her “other mother”. Her “other mother” looks just like her real-life mother – except she has two big black buttons sewed over her eyes. And oh yeah, her hair wriggles “like lazy snakes on a warm day” and she has teeth “as sharp as knives.”

Forget about Coraline running into the Mad Hatter or something similar though. Here is a description of one of the creatures she comes across:

“…the thing was pale and swollen, like a grub, with thin, stick-like arms and feet. It had almost no features on its face, which had puffed and swollen like risen bread dough.”

More Stephen King than the Cheshire cat, even though there is a cocky, talking cat to help Coraline during her adventures.

"One can easily imagine it giving small children nightmares . . ."

Her “other mother” wants Coraline to stay, but she instead returns to the real world where she discovers that her parents have disappeared into thin air, no doubt having been spirited away by her “other mother.” Coraline realizes that she has to face her “other mother” if she is to get her parents back . . .

Coraline is more Sandman than Stardust. It’s pretty dark stuff, and clocking in at a brisk 183 pages or so in a wide-spaced font, it is Stephen King-lite for the Harry Potter set. (After all, kids too like being scared, you know.) Reading it, one can easily imagine why director Henry Selick would be interested in the material. After all, the director has built his reputation by directing two other “dark” children’s tales namely James and the Giant Peach (based on a Roald Dahl story) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (with a story by Tim Burton). One can so easily imagine this to be a “Corpse Bride Part II” that one is quite surprised not to find Tim Burton’s name anywhere in the credits. Using 3-D CG animation to replicate the look and feel of Gaiman’s book is a serious no-brainer and this is confirmed by the teaser trailer (see below) which makes one echo the movie’s tagline of “Oh...My...Gosh!”

Less of a no-brainer is the interesting voice cast assembled. Unsurprisingly Dakota Fanning will be voicing Coraline herself. More surprising though is getting Teri Hatcher best-known as Lois Lane from the Lois & Clark TV series to voice both Coraline’s mother and her creepy “other mother.” The rest of the voice cast though seems spot on: Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinski, Keith David as the wise ass cat and Jennifer Saunders (Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2) as Miss Forcible. At least there won’t be any “name” stars to distract as the tendency in CG animated movies nowadays. Why cast Angelina Jolie in Kung Fu Panda if you don’t even recognize her voice? Aren’t there other more talented voice artists out there who need the money more out there?

Coraline looks quite promising thus far and would appeal to the same small audiences who went to see the Goth Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. We’re just not that convinced you can safely take your small children. Best you go see it yourself first . . .




by Neil Gaiman

Product Details

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 29, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061139378
ISBN-13: 978-0061139376




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