After a great deal of persuasion she managed to get her mother to agree to open the door with an old black key that was kept on the top of the kitchen door framework. They went into the drawing room and with a great deal of difficulty, Coraline's mother turned the key in the lock and swung it back to reveal — bricks. The passage, or whatever it was, had been bricked in when the building had been divided up into apartments — or so Coraline's mother said.
Well, of course we know better than that (and if ever there was an excuse for an adventure to begin) — this is the door that leads seemingly nowhere. Everybody knows that behind those doors lie the scariest and most amazing adventures. Neil Gaiman and his story Coraline don't disappoint in the least.
Aside from being a masterful storyteller, he knows a story is all grown up and can take care of itself so he lets it get on with it while he takes care of the important bits — the important bits being those that dig into us and leave their hooks behind. Gaiman works with surgical precision and realizes all of a child's worst nightmares within the context of the story.
But as a balm to those wounds he also shows how a child, just a normal everyday child without any special powers, can be brave, even when scared. It's about leaving behind the selfishness of childhood and coming to understand what it really means to be loved and not just indulged.
Late childhood is a place full of fears and nightmares that we can only overcome on our own and by breaking through the boundaries that had previously defined our world as ending at the borders of our family. Realizing and accepting that new reality is what makes it possible to overcome the fears of childhood and move beyond them.
Coraline is a beautifully told and marvelously imagined story for all of us folk who hold a place in our hearts for the row houses and sooty bricked attics of the stories of our youth. Hopefully it will also introduce a new generation of readers into that world as well.
Coraline is another collaborative effort between Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean. The two men seem to share a mind when it comes to the creation of atmosphere, and the simplicity that is required to accomplish that purpose effectively in this form. Having worked together on movies (Mirror Mask), graphic novels (The Sandman), and a variety of comic titles, it should come as no surprise that they breathe life into each other's work.