by Neil Gaiman
Harper Collins, 2002, ISBN 0-380-97778-8
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
All of Gaiman's novels so far have been delightful, and this one is no exception. Coraline is putatively aimed at a younger market, the eight and up crowd, but that's no reason for an adult not to sneak into the children's section and pick it up anyway.
Coraline Jones and her family have just moved into a flat in a big, old house. Two of the other flats are occupied, one by "the crazy old man" who tells her that he's training his mouse circus to perform for her, but the mice aren't ready yet, and the other by two old women, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, retired actresses who keep some indeterminate number of aging Highland terriers. There's a fourth flat, that's still empty. There's a door in the drawing room of the Jones' flat that used to lead into the part of the house that's now the fourth, empty, flat, but now it only leads to the brick wall that was put up to divide the building when it was broken up into flats. However, there is still a key that unlocks that door to the brick wall.
With all the adults around her affectionate but distracted--the retired actresses and the crazy old man even consistently call her Caroline, rather than Coraline--Coraline decides to explore. Her exploring leads her to try that door to the brick wall again, and this time there isn't a brick wall. There's a corridor, and Coraline goes down that corridor, and finds her "other mother" making lunch. Her "other mother" and "other father" are attentive, her other bedroom has a more interesting color scheme (though she privately concedes she wouldn't really want to sleep in the green and pink room.) There are pet rats, who sing a nasty little song, and a chestful of toys that seem strangely alive.
When she goes outside, the neighborhood cat, whom she has been unable even to get close to, talks to her, and warns her to be careful.
Everyone she meets, except the cat, has black button eyes.
Coraline, being a sensible child, decides to go back to her own flat, despite the urging of her other mother to stay, and to allow her other mother to sew on her black button eyes so that she can stay forever. But when Coraline gets back to her own side, her parents are missing, and they don't come home, and she can't get anyone to take her seriously when she tells them her parents are missing--except the cat. Gradually, she realizes what has happened, and what she needs to do. This is a nicely scary little book. Strongly recommended.