's my first exposure to Neil Gaiman. I... love... him! I'd seen the movie multiple times and thoroughly enjoyed it. While reading, part of me wished I hadn't seen the movie first. In the future, I'll do my best to honor the rule "book before movie, all is groovy", but since both were excellent, I didn't find having already seen the flick to detract from my reading experience. Sure, I had the animated Coraline in my head the entire time, but that's not such a bad thing really.
And what's not to love about the character Coraline? I see evidence of her wonderfully inquisitive orneriness in our almost-three-year-old Sigourney. I hope I'm supportive in her explorations, even if there's a touch of risk involved. Another likable characteristic of the story is Gaiman's refusal to go for the cheap and easy moral lesson. Coraline does grow during the story, but there's no perfect "happily ever after" closing. Coraline's ennui shifts to gratitude for the small and inconvenient things of everyday existence. For example, instead of annoyance that neighbors continue to mispronounce her name as "Caroline", Coraline realizes that she had never asked the name of upstairs neighbor Mr. Bobo, one of the chief mispronouncers. Growth and understanding, yes; tectonic shift of self; no. Gaiman's realistic portrayal of a journey through childhood worked very well for me.
A warning: Coraline
's not for everyone. It's creepy, and might be nightmare-inducing for younger kids. Gaiman trusts his young readers to engage with issues of death, pain, and generalized literary darkness. He's very Grimm-esque in his placing of children in dangerous situations. Gaiman handles things beautifully. Highly recommended for those tolerant of heebie jeebies.