Monday, 10 July 2017

Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

When I saw Coraline by Neil Gaiman at a library book sale, I knew that I had to buy it. I had never read it before and had mostly heard about the animated film that was made from it. I ended up watching the animated film after reading the book and I liked how they interpreted the book when it came to the imagery, but I found it a bit strange that they added a completely new character, a young boy named Wybie that wasn't in the book whatsoever, to help Coraline. Of course, this new character has a grandmother from whom he finds out some information but I didn't like how suddenly Coraline has someone who helps her rather than her being the true heroine in the end as she was in the book. He was an interesting character and I guess Wybie helping her showed teamwork between children but it was as though the filmmakers were saying that she couldn't do it all on her own; she still needed help from a boy. This was my feminist point of view of the film and I'm sure that it would stand out for anyone who has both read the book and watched the film. With this little rant over, let's concentrate on the book that I absolutely adored.

Coraline is bored of her own life. Her parents don't pay enough attention to her when she just wishes that they would take some time out of their busy schedules to spend time with her. She ends up finding a door in their new house that is bricked up. It used to lead to the room on the other side of the wall but was blocked when the house was split up for several families to live in. The first time unlocking the door shows the bricks but the second time Coraline looks through the door, she finds herself in a parallel world with other parents that look exactly like her own but have buttons in place of their eyes. This parallel world appears to be better but she knows that she belongs in her real home with her real parents and she sees that this parallel world is all just an illusion and a trap.

Coraline is the heroine of the story. She works alone with only the help of a cat and, later, three ghost children. Even though she has this help, she is the character that ultimately saves the day in the end. She is an explorer and she treats this tough situation as an adventure. Bravery is also very important in the story. Coraline faces her fears and never gives up. A really important thing that Coraline says is "When you're scared but you still do it anyway, that's brave." She was scared but she made it through in the end and saved everyone. Even though she was scared, she convinced herself that she was brave and that she was an explorer and could make it through this adventure. I connected with her so much in some of the ways that she felt about fearful situations. These include things that you cannot see being easy to be afraid of, whistling when she was afraid that something would jump out at her (in my case when I am scared of the bush at night at my camp I start saying random things out loud or kind of saying things in a sing-song voice), and hugging herself and telling herself that she was brave when she was afraid (I often put my arms around myself when I'm scared or worried).

At the back of the book, there is information about the author, Neil Gaiman, his own description of how he wrote the book, as well as an interview with him. In his description of writing the book, he ends by saying,"It was a story, I learned when people began to read it, that children experienced as an adventure, but which gave adults nightmares." This perfectly describes the mix of adventure and nightmare that Coraline experiences and she herself recognizes it as both. Perhaps this is because she is an older child? So maybe she sees it as both an adventure and a nightmare because she is still a child but she is growing up. We definitely see her growing up a bit in the story since she takes on the responsibility of saving the day and she learns new life lessons along the way. She certainly showed more of the child that she is since she reminded herself that she was an explorer but she did that because she was scared from seeing how the situation was a nightmare. I love the idea of taking a scary situation and seeing it as an adventure. It's turning something negative into something positive. I think that maybe we need to channel our inner child in that way sometimes.

Another important lesson in the story is that once Coraline knows that this other world is all just an illusion and that her other mother in this world has simply created it to seem perfect, she realizes that perfection isn't important to her. Perfection and getting everything you want isn't actually a great life. She accepts that things might not be perfect in the real world but her parents still love her and she loves them. She doesn't want to stay in this other world and fights her hardest to set things right and save the day by saving her parents that the other mother has trapped and by freeing the trapped ghost children and getting back to her real home. Perfection is all just an illusion. Nobody's life is perfect but it is the imperfections that actually do make it perfect.

There is a lot of positivity and lessons in this book. Being brave even when you're scared, seeing challenges as an adventure, and accepting that life isn't perfect but that's what makes it perfect are all amazing things to remember in life. I love how, if you really take a good look at children's books, we see these beautiful messages.


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