From Helen Brown’s article, “Children’s summer reading – Teenage Thrillers”, in the 13 July Daily Telegraph:
…Still, if any writer can get the guys to read about the girls, it should be Neil Gaiman, author of the American cult comic series, Sandman. Because of his science-fiction/horror bent, Gaiman’s fanbase is largely male, but he’s never been above a little gender subversion: in his graphic novels, the grim reaper was a babe. Death doesn’t frighten Gaiman nearly half so much as dreams: “You don’t get recurring death,” he argues. And his new novel, Coraline (Bloomsbury, £9.99), is a dreamlike adventure in which Coraline, a modern-day Alice, unlocks a door in her family’s kitchen and slips through into a cold passageway, a twisted version of her own house, dominated by an “other mother” and an “other father” with sewn-on button eyes. Upstairs lives a man who trains rats. Red of eye and jagged of tooth, they chant:
We have eyes and we have nerveses
We have tails and we have teeth
You’ll all get what you deserveses
When we rise from underneath.
The “other mother’ tells Coraline that she loves her. She says that she has created a special world in which little girls do not get ignored or made to eat “recipes” with tarragon, garlic and broad beans. She kidnaps Coraline’s real parents and traps them in the mirror, leaving her with only one ally: a sarcastic black cat who is unreliable in the main but comes good in the end when he decapitates one of the chanting rats. For all its gripping nightmare imagery, this is actually a conventional fairy story with a moral. It warns its readers to appreciate their flawed parents – and to be careful
around disused wells, expensive furniture and rhyming rodents…