Coraline
Coraline
By Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Dave McKean
On Sale: 8/5/2003
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"Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house . . ."

The door once led to a room, but when the old house was converted into flats the doorway was bricked up. That is, until the day a curious little girl named Coraline sneaks the key from her distracted mother, opens the door . . . and enters an alternate universe, where dogs eat nothing but chocolate, cats can talk, and she is greeted enthusiastically by her Other Parents.

Her Other Mother looks quite a bit like her own mother -- except for the long spindly fingers and shiny black button eyes -- but it's her disposition that is most remarkable. Where her real mother always seemed too busy for Coraline, her Other Mother is attentive and affectionate. She cooks delicious meals, showers the little girl with praise, and asks Coraline to stay with her forever.

But Coraline misses her real parents -- tiresome as they sometimes are -- and insists on returning to the real world. There, she finds her parents trapped in the hallway mirror, victims of her Other Mother's evil spell. Now she must take a dangerous journey back into the other world . . . or risk never seeing her parents again!







Critic Reviews

“ Walk through the door and you’ll believe in love, magic, and the power of good over evil.”
   — USA Today

“So wonderfully whimsical that readers of all ages will hungrily devour it, word by word…Coraline is destined to become a classic.
   — Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“A magnificently creepy story…for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister, Coraline is spot on.”
   — Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)

“An electrifyingly creepy tale likely to haunt young readers for many moons.”

   — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Coraline may be Gaiman’s most disciplined and fully controlled novel to date, and it may even end up as something of a classic.”
   — Locus

“By turns creepy and funny, bittersweet and playful…can be read quickly and enjoyed deeply.”
   — San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

“Beautifully spooky. Gaiman actually seems to understand the way children think. ”
   — Christian Science Monitor

“Chilly, finely-wrought prose, a truly weird setting and a fable that taps into our most uncomfortable fears.”
   — Times Educational Supplement

“A modern ghost story with all the creepy trimmings…Well done.”
   — New York Times Book Review

“Gaiman’s pacing is superb, and he steers the tension of the tale with a deft and practiced narrative touch.”
   — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Gaiman’s tale is inventive, scary, thrilling and finally affirmative. Readers young and old will find something to startle them.”
   — Washington Post Book World

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, rise to your feet and applaud: Coraline is the real thing.”
   — Philip Pullman, The Guardian

Awards
Hugo Award for Best Novella
SFWA Nebula Award for Best Novella
Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel
Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers
An ALA Notable Children’s Book
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A Publishers Weekly Best Book
A School Library Journal Best Book
A Child Magazine Best Book of the Year
A Book Magazine Best Book
A Guardian Unlimited Best of 2002 selection (UK)
A BookSense 76 pick
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
An IRA/CBC Children’s Choice
A Blue Ribbon winner
(Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
A New York Public Library
"One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" selection
A Note From Neil

More then ten years ago I started to write a children’s book. It was for my daughter, Holly, who was five years old. I wanted it to have a girl as a heroine, and I wanted it to be refreshingly creepy.


I started to write a story about a girl named Coraline. I thought that the story would be five or ten pages long. The story itself had other plans....


It was a story, I learned when people began to read it, that children experienced as an adventure, but which gave adults nightmares. It's the strangest book I've written, it took the longest time to write, and it's the book I'm proudest of.


Neil

Q&A with Neil

Q: Have you ever thought of writing a sequel to CORALINE?
A: Not really. It would have to be as good as CORALINE, for a start, and not something we’ve seen told again.

Q: How can the Other Mother see with button eyes?
A: Very well.

Q: How did you come up with button eyes from the story CORALINE?
A: Argh. I do not know. They just seemed right.

Q: I’ve noticed that with CORALINE and MIRROR MASK, both stories have to do with girls in a world unbeknown to them. Do the two stories relate?
A: Not really. The story in MIRROR MASK is Dave McKean’s, a dream he had that he wanted to tell as a story.

Q: How did you think up the name "Coraline"?
A: It was from typing “Caroline” and it coming out wrong. Larry Niven, the science fiction author, said in an essay that writers should treasure their typing mistakes. Once I typed it, I knew it was somebody’s name, and I wanted to know what happened to her.

I recently discovered it was actually a real name, although it’s not been used much in English-speaking countries for a long time. And, at the turn of the last century, it was a name for a brand of corset.

Q: Coraline is called "A Fairy Tale". Do you really believe in fairies?
A: Well, the only fairy in Coraline has been dead for hundreds of years, and some people read the book and never notice her at all. Coraline’s a fairy tale in the same way that Hansel and Gretel is a fairy tale.

As for believing in fairies ... many years ago I wrote the copyright notice for a comic called The Books of Magic, in which I said words to the effect of “All the characters, human or otherwise, are imaginary, excepting only certain of the faerie folk, whom it might be unwise to offend by casting doubts on their existence. Or lack thereof.”   A position I still wholeheartedly support and defend.

Q: Did your parents insist on cooking "recipes" rather than regular food?
A: Actually, that was me that did that, and I stole that aspect of Coraline from my son Mike, when he was young, and still called Mikey. If ever I made anything adventurous he’d shake his head and say, “Dad, you’ve made a recipe, haven’t you?” and he’d head off to the freezer compartment to find a box of microwaveable french fries.

Whenever we’d go out to eat he’d order peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, until one day a waiter persuaded him to explore the rest of the menu, and he’s never looked back.

Q: How did you deal with long, boring, rainy days in the school holidays?
A: Well, on the good ones I’d get someone to drop me off at the local library, and I’d read. On the bad ones I’d stare out of the window and wonder what to do, and eventually wind up rereading the Narnia books.

Q: What was the door that you were most scared to go through?
A: Coraline’s door really was in the “drawing room” of our house. The house, long since knocked down, had been divided into two, and behind the door at the far end of the room was a red-brick wall. I was never certain there would always be a brick wall there, though.

Q: Are things really magical, or do you make them magical by believing in them?
A: I think most things are pretty magical, and that it’s less a matter of belief than it is one of just stopping to notice.

Q: What is the biggest key you have on your keyring and what does it open?
A: When I was a boy I collected keys, for no real reason I could explain, and somewhere in the attic I still have a box filled with them, keys of all sizes and shapes and designs.

There aren’t any fun ones on the everyday key-ring, though: the biggest opens the cabin, overlooking a lake, where I go and write each day. The cabin doesn’t have a phone, which helps.

Q: What chocolate do you eat first if you're given a whole box?
A: In a perfect world, I would first identify the chocolates from the Identify Your Chocolate guide and eat something with a name like “Caramel Surprise”. In the real world, I tend normally to accidentally pull out the chocolate truffles. By the way, I cannot see the point of 'tangerine cremes'.

Q: Why do the batteries in things always run out just when you really need them?
A: It’s one of the rules. I don’t try to explain them.  I just live here.

Q: Did you let your children read Coraline before anyone else?
A: Well, I read it to Maddy, who was six when I finished it; and I forgot to give it to Holly (who was around sixteen), so she just read it. “hope you weren’t too old for it," I told her, when she was done. "I don’t think you can be too old for Coraline," she said, which made me very happy.

Q: What is your favorite time of day?
A: Really, really early in the morning, just as the sun is coming up. I don’t see it too often, but I love it when I do.

Q: Have you ever had your fortune told?
A: Once, while waiting for a theatre to open in New York, by an old woman. She told me I would die on an island. It hasn’t happened yet.

Q: The CORALINE illustrations seem very different from most of the Dave McKean pictures I've seen; was that your idea, or did Mr McKean mutate upon reading the manuscript?
A: Dave mutated on reading the manuscript, and started growing extra hands and feet and noses.... not really. Actually, Dave has lots and lots of styles (I don't think there's a style he can't work in) and he just picked the one he felt was right for CORALINE. He uses about three different styles for THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS – the people are painted, the wolves are drawn, and the jam-pots are all photographed.

Q: How did you come up with the black-button eyes in CORALINE? (Was this anything to do with the black contact lenses that were so awfully effective on the Angel Islington in NEVERWHERE?
A: Nope, CORALINE was begun before NEVERWHERE was made.

Q: As CORALINE really comes to life by the way you tell the story, do you think the whole thing will lose some of it's Athmos---fear when translated?
A: It depends on the translator. When I win awards in foreign countries, I know that a lot of it is due to the translator doing a good job.

Q: Did you write CORALINE from your imagination, or from a dream you had?
A: I wrote it from my imagination, very slowly. None of it came directly from dreams, but I wanted it to have a dream-like quality to it.

Q: Why did you choose beetles for the 'OTHER' mother to eat? Do beetles freak you out the most?
A: Well, they seemed the right sort of thing to eat from a paper bag. Spiders would run away, and ants would just crawl out. Beetles are slow enough that I could imagine someone picking them from a bag and eating them, with a crunch. They don't freak me out the most - there are things I could have put in the bag that would have been worse, but they were just the right amount of unpleasant.

Q: What is the difference between a flat and an apartment?
A: The biggest difference is that flats are apartments in England. If you go to a dictionary it will say things like '5. A floor, loft, or story in a building; especially, a floor of a house, which forms a complete residence in itself.' or '7: a suite of rooms usually on one floor of an apartment house.

Q: Do you know someone who reminds you of the other mother?
A: No, thank Heavens. I don't think I'd want to meet her in reality--it was bad enough on paper.

Q: I liked your book because... Coraline was brave and she looks a lot like me!
A: That's why I liked the book. I was very proud of her. Very brave, and sensible when she had to be sensible.

Q: I just finished reading CORALINE and I loved it! Do you think you will make a sequel?
A: I don't think so. It couldn't make CORALINE a better book for me to write CORALINE GOES TO AFRICA or something, and it might make it worse.

Q: How old is Coraline?
A: Good question. She's actually older than she looks.

Q: Do the rats have any plans for World domination?
Yes.

Q: Ever eaten a beetle?
A: Not knowingly. But the colour red in foods is often cochineal, which is made from a ground up beetle, so I'm sure I must have done.

Q: What do you do when you have this magnificent idea, and you know where it must go, but in getting there you draw a blank? As a writer, you must have this problem. Did you experience this with CORALINE?
A: Yes, but I cheated and wrote other things in the meanwhile.

Q: How do you feel about the comparisons to Alice in Wonderland?
A: Well, I suppose people have to compare it to something, and both CORALINE and Alice in Wonderland are about girls in strange places. I don't think the comparison goes much further than that, really. (One critic compared it to a story by a Victorian writer named Lucy Clifford, which was very wise, but Lucy Clifford has been out of print for a long time, whereas everyone knows Alice.)

Q: Once you had her name, how did you discover what Coraline was like?
A: I wrote a book, very quietly, and watched, and listened.

Q: If Coraline were to have a favorite room in your house, what do you think it would be and why?
A: Well, I think that it might be fun to explore the attic. It's filled with things... I still wonder what's up there.

Q: Does CORALINE feature any gods? They seem to be a constant in most of your work.
A: Good question.

Q: I'm 11 years old and I have never liked freaky books, until one of my teachers read CORALINE to me. How did you come up with this idea of the other mother and father?
A: I'm really not sure. I remember as a kid worrying that I'd get home and my parents would have moved house and forgotten to tell me. And what if the people who moved into the house looked just like my parents... but they weren't? It's the kind of daydream you never entirely forget...

Q: The other-mother is sometimes referred to as the beldam. Is this a typographical error for bedlam, much like Coraline and Caroline?
A: Nope. It's a real word, from the French, belle dame, meaning an old hag or witch.
beldam
n 1: an ugly evil-looking old woman [syn: hag, beldame, witch, crone] 2: a woman of advanced age [syn: beldame].

Q: CORALINE was written in the most wonderful 'British storybook voice' that I remember from books I had as a small child. Did you do this intentionally?
A: More or less, in that I'm English, and I know that voice inside and out, which made it an easy sort of voice to write CORALINE in.

Q: Does CORALINE have the same type of cleverness that you usually seem to have with your other writings?
A: No, it has a different type of cleverness.

Chapter 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 had 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 know-hole in one if 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 ...

 

----------------------------------------------------------

Coraline
Coraline walked down the hallway until she reached the mirror at the end. There was nothing reflected in it but a young girl in her dressing gown and slippers, who looked like she had recently been crying, but whose eyes were real eyes, not black buttons, and who was holding tightly to a burned out candle in a candlestick.
            She looked at the girl in the mirror and the girl in the mirror looked back at her.
            I will be brave, thought Coraline. No, I am brave.

The Other Mother
A woman stood in the kitchen with her back to Coraline. She looked a little like Coraline's mother. Only ...
            Only her skin was white as paper.
            Only she was taller and thinner.
            Only her fingers were too long, and they never stopped moving, and her dark red fingernails were curved and sharp.
            "Coraline?" the woman said. "Is that you?"
            And then she turned around. Her eyes were big black buttons.

The Cat
Standing on the wall next to her was a large black cat, identical to the large black cat she'd seen in the grounds at home.
            "Good afternoon," said the cat.
            Its voice sounded like the voice at the back of Coraline's head, the voice she thought words in, but a man's voice, not a girl's.
            "Hello," said Coraline. "Cats don't talk at home."
            "No?" said the cat.
            "No," said Coraline.
            The cat leaped smoothly from the wall to the grass, near Coraline's feet. It stared up at her.
            "Well you're the expert on these things," said the cat drily.