Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)
Something nasty lives in Coraline's house.
It's nothing to do with Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, the two faded old actresses who live in the ground floor flat with their Highland terriers and their memories of past successes. Nor is it anything to do with Mr Bobo up in the attic, the crazy old man with a big moustache who is training a mouse circus, but won't let anyone see it
It's to do with the door in Coraline's flat, the door that opens onto a blank brick wall:
'When this place was just one house,' said Coraline's mother, 'that door went somewhere. When they turned the house into flats, they simply bricked it up. The other side is the empty flat on the other side of the house, the one that's still for sale.'
She shut the door and put the string of keys back on top of the kitchen doorframe.
'You didn't lock it,' said Coraline.
Her mother shrugged. 'Why should I lock it?' she asked. 'It doesn't go anywhere.'
Coraline didn't say anything.
But she begins to wonder about it, later, in the middle of the night. Nasty little things begin skittering about, and when she gets up to investigate (bravely), there's nothing there ... except that door is now ever so slightly open. Just a crack.
Still, how could anything come through the door when there's a brick wall behind it?
Depends what you're up against, doesn't it.
The other mother sat down on the big sofa. She picked up a brown handbag from beside the sofa, and took out a white, rustling, paper bag from inside it.
She extended the hand with the paper bag in it to Coraline. 'Would you like one?' she asked politely?
Expecting it to be a toffee or a butterscotch ball, Coraline looked down. The bag was half-filled with large shiny blackbeetles, crawling over each other in their efforts to get out of the bag.
'No,' said Coraline. 'I don't want one.'
'Suit yourself,' said her other mother. She carefully picked out a particularly large and black beetle, pulled off its legs (which she dropped, neatly, into a big glass ashtray on the small table beside the sofa), and popped the beetle into her mouth. She crunched it happily.
'Yum,' she said, and took another.
'You're sick,' said Coraline. 'Sick and evil and weird.'
It's a brilliant book, moving inexorably from the deliciously creepy to crawling fear up the back of your spine. It was the buttons, though, that really did it for me! If you want to know, you'll have to read it ... not just for children.
What can I read next?
What shall we call it? Gothic horror? It's a smallish category. There are other books like this one, but they may not match Coraline for lightness of touch. There is a classic though, which stands with Coraline. It is by Mervyn Peake:
There's also the other classic by Lewis Carroll:
If you want a quick read you could have a look at this complicated little story by Philip Pullman which makes the flesh crawl a bit:
Or there is this rather unpleasant little story by Susan Price:
You might also enjoy this longer novel, full of ghouls of the foulest kind:
Happy reading! And don't blame me if you can't sleep at night.
Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:
- Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (Score: 100%)
- The Last of the Sky Pirates by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Score: 93%)
- Hazel's Phantasmagoria by Leander Deeny (Score: 93%)
- Beetle Boy by M G Leonard (Score: 93%)
- Lirael by Garth Nix (Score: 93%)
Coraline features in these lists: