Neil Gaiman has been one of my favorite writers for years now; when I was in high school, I discovered the Sandman series of comics and fell in love (I have a quote from one of the books tattooed on my shoulderblade; Sandman was the first-ever comic series to win a literary award, a fact which gives me goose-flesh every time I think about it). Since then, I've read anything of his I can get my hands on, no matter what age group it's intended for. That's the lovely thing about Gaiman's work; his books cross more boundaries than any other writer I'm aware of. You don't have to be a kid to enjoy his children's stories. That's why I became a fan of Coraline in my twenties.
I used to work at a bookstore, and more days than not, I was given the task of cleaning and re-shelving the children's section. Although it wasn't an easy job--try cleaning up after a hundred or so kids every day, plus their parents--it was my favorite place in the store to be because of the good memories I associate with books and my childhood. I re-discovered some of my old favorites (Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs) and found newer works that I couldn't live without. Coraline was one of those.
The award-winning book tells the story of a girl who moves into a new house and discovers a little door leading to a secret world, which mirrors her own world in almost every way...except it's better. Her "other mother" is more attentive and loving, the food is marvelous, and she can do as she pleases. But she comes to realize her "other" parents are intent on keeping her there forever, and will do whatever is necessary to keep her from going back to the real world.
The book was adapted for the big screen by Henry Selick in 2009 in a completely wonderful stop-motion feature, an art form I admire so much not only because of the gorgeous aesthetic, but because of the extreme amounts of patience it must take to create something so tedious. Every single aspect of the film was handmade, from hand-painted sets to the teeny-tiny clothes each character wore, and in order for the filmmakers to get everything just right, they went through the entire movie once before filming it. So, essentially, they made the movie twice.
Gaiman injects everything he writes--no matter how dark the subject matter--with a sense of humor that appeals to me largely because it's the sort of sarcastic wit I'm prone to myself. His books are a comfort to me, much as my favorites were when I was a child. And although fans have clamored for a sequel for years, I'm glad Gaiman refuses to entertain the idea. There is only one Coraline, and that's as it should be.
Images courtesy of Focus Features