Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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Coraline slightly frightens
me. As I read the story, I couldn’t help but finish it as the suspense was great, but perhaps because of my experience (now being an adult), I found myself scared. Coraline is a story of a little girl who unlocks the door into another world where there is the “Other Mother” who kidnaps Coraline’s parents to try to force
Coraline to live in her “other world”. In the story Coraline meets three other children’s ‘shells’ — they are not really alive or dead because the Other Mother has hidden their souls so that she can feast off of them forever. One of the little children spoke old English, so the idea is that the children have been there for quite some time. Coraline then decides to make a bet with the Other Mother to free her parents and the other children’s souls. The question is, whether the Other Mother will keep her word and if Coraline will be able to find the children’s souls in time to save them.

One of the lessons to be learned from Coraline is a good and valuable lesson which is the sacrificial love parents have for their children. Coraline remembers a time when her father saved her from yellow jackets, and decides that if her father loved her that much to sacrifice himself, then she can overcome her fears and try to rescue her parents; no matter the risk to herself. And Coraline herself is quite a strong character as she is able to make strategic decisions to help her against the Other Mother. She does this all even though she herself is frightened because she loves her parents and she knows her parents would do the same for her (even though they were not been spending much time with her in the beginning of the story, she knew that they still loved her). So the general lesson from the story is a good one, but the events along the way are just a little creepy.

In Coraline, the breadth and knowledge about the world is explained little, which fits as it is a children’s story. From reading Coraline, the reader will know that there is one very creepy Other Mother who is able to transform things, but not create. She ‘feeds’ off supposedly of children someway, but it isn’t ever explained. What is explained is this [a child’s ‘shell’ is explaining this to Coraline]:

“The names are the first things to go, after the breath has gone, and the beating of the heart. We keep our memories longer than our names.”

“She [the Other Mother] stole our hearts, and she stole our souls, and she took our lives away, and she left us here, and she forgot
about us in the dark.”

“She fed on us until we’ve nothing left of ourselves, only snakes skins and
spider husks…”

Most children may completely read over this, and not see the
darkness of the story at all. It is better that not much more is explained as Gaiman’s other world seems to be controlled by a woman who is manipulative and creepy (like most of his villainous woman in his adult stories). And while the real fairy tales are slightly dark as well, this Other Mother seems to build and create her world off of children’s spirits and lives. The reader can’t believe that she wants Coraline as a daughter, but instead wants to use her to help fuel her and her world. This is in my mind makes the tale very dark, even with the touching lesson of sacrificial love.

Coraline is a well-written tale but perhaps for older children, such as teenagers. Especially in light of other dark tales that have been recently written, like Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or The Dead and the Gone by Pfeffer. The question for these stories is how dark should children’s stories be and when is it the appropriate time for them to read such tales?

Cheerfulness Abounding

Now that Christmas break has begun, I find that I am able to catch up on all the reading that I’ve missed lately.  Yesterday I finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Pox Party: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson.  Today I plan to read The Kingdom on the Waves, the sequel to the Pox Party.  Octavian intrigues me; mostly for the subject matter of the book (for those unfamiliar with Octavian Nothing series — it is a fictional slave narrative by a child who is 16 and raised by a group  of philosophers).  Who isn’t intrigued by the subject matter?  For what happened to us as a nation while slavery was an accepted practice is still felt today.  Maybe in some areas it is not, but in literature is still is felt; just like we are still riveted by the Holocaust.

Besides these cheery books, I’ve also finished the books Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone by Pfeffer.  Out of the two, I liked The Dead and the Gone much better.  The main character in The Dead and The Gone goes through a more believeable transformation I think, and his story is more horrifying than Miranda’s in Life as We Knew It.  It should be duly noted that both of these stories are dark and horrifying, but The Dead and The Gone is especially so.  The reader follows Alex, a 17yr old Puerto Rican kid, as he is faced with caring for his younger sisters after a huge natural diasaster.  Through the story he has to make tough decisions, do what we would think are horrendous things, just to guarantee his sisters (and his) survival.  A fascinating dystopia novel that leaves the reader stunned by the end of the story.  I finished this book actually a couple weeks ago when I supposed to finishing up my papers and finals, but I couldn’t put it down and I find that still now the images in the story are on my mind.

Besides reading more today, I have all the Christmasy things left to do: wrap our presents (all 20 of them), make sugar cookies, and start the crust for apple pies.  Maybe I’ll watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, just to lighten the mood.