Neil Gaiman’s children’s novel Coraline begins when Coraline, a young girl, and her parents move into a second-floor flat in an old house. In the opening pages, Coraline explores her new home and meets her rather eccentric neighbors. On the third floor lives a “crazy old man” named Mr. Bobo who claims to be training a mouse circus, although he will not let Coraline see it. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, elderly ladies who are former actresses and keep a clan of Highland terriers, live on the first floor. They warn Coraline not to go near the well by the house, and they also give her a stone with a hole in it for protection. In addition to her neighbors, Coraline notices a black cat that follows her around outside the house, although he runs away whenever Coraline approaches.
Inside her own apartment, Coraline finds a locked door at the far corner of the drawing room. Her mother unlocks it and reveals that the door opens onto a brick wall—on the other side, she explains, is another empty apartment.
In the days that follow, Coraline becomes bored, left to her own devices in the apartment, waiting for school to start. When she complains to her parents, they brush her off, telling her to amuse herself so that they can concentrate on their work.
One day, when Coraline’s parents are out, Coraline takes the house keys and opens the locked door again. This time, she finds not a brick wall, but a dark hallway on the other side. She walks down the hallway and realizes she is in a flat that looks almost exactly like her own, except for small details such as the changed expression of a boy’s face in a painting on a wall. Coraline hears a voice that sounds like her mother’s call her name and follows the voice to a kitchen. She finds a woman who looks a bit like her mother, but with white skin, long, sharp fingernails, and black buttons for eyes. When Coraline asks the woman who she is, she says she is Coraline’s “other mother.” Coraline’s “other father,” who also has black button eyes, joins the two, and they have a delicious lunch. Coraline’s “other” parents tell her they have been waiting for her for a long time.
After lunch, Coraline goes to inspect her “other” bedroom, where she finds a number of unusual toys and fifty rats under her bed. The rats belong to the “other” strange man upstairs, who soon comes to collect them; he invites Coraline upstairs, but she feels uneasy and refuses.Instead, she wanders outside and finds that the house and garden look almost the same as they do outside her home, although Miss Spink and Miss Forcible’s apartment is surrounded by flashing lights. Next, Coraline sees a black cat just like the one outside her real home, although now the cat speaks to her in a human voice. The cat says he is not the “other” cat because unlike people, cats “keep ourselves together.”
After the cat disappears, Coraline wanders into Miss Spink and Miss Forcible’s flat, which has become a theater where the two women transform into young, glamorous versions of themselves and perform for an audience of terriers.
When Coraline returns to her “other” flat, her other parents tell her she can stay forever—if she agrees to wear button eyes. Coraline, horrified, runs back down the hallway to her own flat, and once she arrives, the brick wall reappears behind her.
However, that night, Coraline’s parents do not return home, and they do not come back the next day either. Finally, the black cat appears inside the flat and leads Coraline to a mirror at the end of the hallway. Coraline sees her parents reflected in the mirror, and her mother breathes on the glass and writes “HELP US” in the fog before their image fades away.Coraline calls the police, who do not take her seriously; then, sure that her other mother has her real parents, Coraline goes back through the locked door, down the dark hallway to the other flat.
Coraline’s other parents act overjoyed to have her...
(The entire section is 1,636 words.)