Jul 4, 2010

Coraline

Neil Gaiman wrote Coraline for his little daughter Holly who liked scary stories about little girls getting mixed up with witches. The book can even give a mild shiver or two - well, let me confess here - and make them check the back of their closets and their eyes. Just once. Just to make sure. Especially when things are too good to be true.

Everyone loves a good scare from time to time, especially when conjuring up the scarescape in our own heads. Gaiman's wonderfully paced writing and characteristic fancies gives us all the help we need. The story is set in England where, as everyone knows, ghosts play cricket in the autumn dusk and witches go shopping at the neighbourhood Castle Tesco. Besides being doughty in the best traditions of 'oh well, let's not make a fuss now and set about battling the dragon', Coraline, the young heroine of the tale, has an active curiosity and imagination that literally opens doors for her. Among the neighbours, the humans are batty and the animals are wise. The others are just plain sinister.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. If you dismiss this book merely as children's fiction, think again. Like some great writing, this works for everyone. And if you are a parent who thinks they can fob off their children with distractions so that they'll let you work, you must read this book before something happens. To you.

Coraline was made into a well-received stop motion animation film in 2009 by Henry Selick. There are a few changes to the characters and settings (sadly, perhaps keeping the box office in mind, the story moves to the USA). But the movie is lovingly made, and the translation from word to image is magical. The animation is seamless and it's hard to pick out the fact that the movie is a stop-motion one.

And after you've seen the film, go back to the opening credits.


image courtesy: http://vindicated13.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/coraline.jpg

7 comments:

Ajay said...

Quite enjoyed both the book and the movie. I was probably in a minority of one who thought it should've won best animated film over 'Up'.

Kunal said...

I think Coraline sort of fits into this newish trend of really dark children's books - in the tradition of the Grimm brothers' fairy tales. Pratchett's children's fiction (The Amazing Maurice, the Tiffany Aching series and so on) is similar - dark themes but still something that children can enjoy without getting too scared.

Ramanand said...

Posting comments again as they seem to have disappeared

Kunal:

I think Coraline sort of fits into this newish trend of really dark children's books - in the tradition of the Grimm brothers' fairy tales. Pratchett's children's fiction (The Amazing Maurice, the Tiffany Aching series and so on) is similar - dark themes but still something that children can enjoy without getting too scared.

Ajay:
Quite enjoyed both the book and the movie. I was probably in a minority of one who thought it should've won best animated film over 'Up'.

Ramanand said...

Kunal: thanks for pointing to the other books - of them I'd only heard of The Amazing Maurice. Will check them out.

Ajay: I preferred UP so guess you'll remain in that minority of one :-)

Kunal said...

You're welcome. You should also check out Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, which adds atheist/humanist ideas to the dark themes we were talking about.

Rashmi Singh said...

Thanks, Ramanand and Kunal! Should mark them as "To be read" for my daughter :-)

Ramanand said...

You're welcome, Rashmi! I guess for both Kunal and me, "children's" fiction holds a lot of appeal and we're happy to share that around :-)