By Neil Gaiman
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 0 747594 062
It is 10 years since Neil Gaiman's spooky little classic, Coraline, was first published and if you haven't already met Coraline, now is the perfect time to make her acquaintance. When the book was first published back in 2002, readers of all ages discovered and loved it.
Coraline won awards, and then came the 2009 film that further cemented the reputation of Gaiman's thrillingly sinister masterpiece. Now readers can discover it again in a new birthday edition illustrated by Chris Riddell. Don't be tempted to thumb through the book to look at the illustrations before you start to read. Let them surprise you as you follow Coraline into her spooky alternate reality.
Coraline Jones and her parents have moved into a new flat in an ancient house with an overgrown garden. The Jones' neighbours - including a man who trains mice and plans to open a mouse circus - are bizarre but harmless. But there are no other children in the house, and Coraline is soon lonely and bored.
It's the school holidays and Coraline has nothing to do. Her father sends her off on a mission, telling her to explore the rooms in the flat that they are not going to use and count the windows and doors. Coraline sets off with pencil and paper. She counts 21 windows and 14 doors; 13 of the doors open, but the 14th - a big, carved, brown wooden door - is firmly locked.
Coraline asks her mother where the door leads, but Mrs Jones is too busy to think about it. Coraline finds a rusty old key that can only be for that big door; but when she unlocks it, she finds herself staring at a brick wall. The door leads nowhere. But Coraline is not satisfied, and that night, when everyone is asleep, she creeps back to the mysterious portal.
On opening the door this time, Coraline finds a secret corridor that leads into a house just like the one she has left. Here, another mother and father, with black buttons for eyes and papery skin, tell Coraline they have been waiting for her. They tell Coraline she is their daughter now. Coraline is trapped in a sinister counterfeit world.
The button-eyed mother has entered the world of children's literature as a superb classic villain, and the whole book oozes a sense of unease. Gaiman's Coraline is a modern masterpiece of scary and spooky storytelling, a gentle and unnerving tale of terror that could easily end up being the most disturbing book you ever read. And you will enjoy every delicious shiver.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com