I finished Coraline by Neil Gaiman today and it is deliciously imaginatively scary in that way that children’s books can be: just scary enough that I had to keep from dwelling on some of the grotesque imagery, but not enough to terrify most kids. Coraline is kind of ignored by her parents most of the time, and she finds a secret passage to another house that is just like her house, with a mother and father that are like hers and want to keep her and pay attention to her and give her wonderful food and toys. She returns to her real home only to find that she now has to save her real mother and father from her other mother and father, who have trapped them behind the mirror. And in the middle is this wonderful passage that I didn’t really expect in this book:
“Stay here with us,” said the voice from the figure at the end of the room. “We will listen to you and play with you and laugh with you. Your other mother will build whole worlds for you to explore, and tear them down every night when you are done. Every day will be better and brighter than the one that went before. Remember the toy box? How much better would a world be build just like that, and all for you?”
“And will there be gray, wet days where I just don’t know what to do and there’s nothing to read or to watch and nowhere to go and the day drags on forever?” asked Coraline.
From the shadows, the man said, “Never.”
“And will there be awful meals, with food made from recipes, with garlic and tarragon and broad beans in?” asked Coraline.
“Every meal will be a thing of joy,” whispered the voice from under the old man’s hat. “Nothing will pass your lips that does not entirely delight you.”
“And could I have Day-Glo green gloves to wear, and yellow Wellington boots in the shape of frogs?” asked Coraline.
“Frogs, ducks, rhinos, octopuses–whatever you desire. The world will be build new for you every morning. If you stay here, you can have whatever you want.”
Coraline sighed. “You really don’t understand, do you?” she said. “I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything. What then?”
Coraline has more wisdom (and courage) than I do.