When the door to the unknown opens

February 21, 2015

Every once in a while an author comes along that recalls the viewpoint of a child.  Not any child in particular, only what it was like to always be the youngest person in the room, with the most amount of instruction, whose opinions carry the least weight in a family.  Because, along with being loved and read to and coddled and warm, that’s what it feels like sometimes when you’re a kid.  Anyway, Neil Gaiman knows that.  Like Roald Dahl and T. H. White and Lewis Carroll before him, he remembers how even loved kids sometimes want more from their lives, more attention, more influence, more glamor.  And he puts this in his books, along with what comes from granted wishes.  The man’s written many terrific books but if you’re not familiar with his work, may I begin the acquaintance?  Let me introduce you to someone special, a girl named Coraline.

Coraline is a girl with a problem.  As a matter of fact, she is bored.   Her family’s moved into a very old house that has been turned into apartments and her parents have focused on their work.  Her folks love her and care for her but, right now, they’re too busy to pay much attention.  The neighbors aren’t bad, but they’re grown and they always mispronounce her name and predict she’s going into danger.  This is not what a young girl wants.  Nope, Coraline wants some attention, and a mother who cooks, a father than listens and a look in the apartment next door.   There’s a brick wall and a locked door between that empty flat and hers, at least there is until Coraline sneaks out the key, opens the lock and the bricked wall she once saw has vanished…so Coraline goes exploring.  Like Alice through the Looking Glass, she finds a world much like her own until you get to the details.  Here, the folks pays attention and the toys are all alive and the “other mother” cooks and looks at the world through sewn-on, shoe-button eyes.  There’s something not right with this world even with all these improvements and Coraline returns to the real world before they can change out here eyes. And this is where Coraline leaves Alice behind.

Now I love the Alice books.  From 5th grade through 8th grade, I re-read them continually and I can still recite Jabberwocky by heart.  But Alice’s adventures are bordered by her workaday world.  When the story needed to end or got too complex Alice would wake and the Red Queen and Mock Turtle would vanish.  Magic couldn’t follow her back.  But Coraline eventually realizes opening the door let the “other world” into hers and real parents are no match for the Other-Mother’s schemes.  In order to return to her world, Coraline has to save it, with the aid of a cat and her brain.   Well, there’s a whole lot more but you’ll need to read the book.

Coraline’s perfect for anyone who is waiting or for folks who’ve yearned to explore the unknown.  If you remember feeling curious about the other side of the world or wondering what’s inside a stone, spend an hour or two with this brave adventurer.   And remember to watch your step and avoid people with buttons for eyes.

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