Posts Tagged ‘children’s fiction’

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I only really discovered Neil Gaiman’s books last year but I’ve been catching up since. I probably would have overlooked Coraline except that the film is coming out soon (it’s already out in the UK) and I like to read the book first.

Coraline has just moved into a new flat with her parents. An only child, she gets lonely when she feels her parents are ignoring her and finds little entertainment with the eccentric actresses from downstairs, or the man with the mouse circus from upstairs. One day she finds a door that appears not to go anywhere, but in fact leads to a much larger-than-life replica of her home, and her Other Mother really wants her to stay…

I got the impression at the beginning of the book that it took a while to get into the swing of it; it was quite abrupt initially. It didn’t take long to start flowing much more smoothly though. It’s not violent or gory but it is creepy and, just when it seems to have wrapped up nicely, it gets even creepier. I’d have been terrified as a child (though I was a particularly wussy child), and was slightly freaked out as an adult to be honest (so nothing much changed really).

This is a great book for older children, you’d probably have to be eitherĀ  big Neil Gaiman fan or a fan of children’s books to get on with it as an adult, unlike The Graveyard Book which I think is aimed at slightly older children and is less of a change of style for adults. As a fan of both Gaiman and well written children’s books, however, I recommend it. Unless you’re on your own in an otherwise dark house, in which case I’d wait until morning.


The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White

I figured this would be a good place to start with my Arthurian Legend goal. It was fun for the most part, and I really really wanted to love it but I just didn’t.

It tells the story of Wart, ward of Sir Ector, and his childhood growing up with Sir Ector’s sun Kay, who is destined to be a knight. The magician Merlyn becomes their tutor and his lessons are unusual to say the least – they tend to involve turning into something (fish, snake, bird) but there’s the occasional battle alongside Robin Wood (whose name people get wrong all the time).

There’s a lot about this that’s utterly delightful. The description of Merlyn’s cottage is fabulous, Merlyn is endearing but Archimedes the owl is awesome and the lessons, particularly those that involve transforming into something else, sound like just the sort of lesson everyone would love. The ending, which everyone knows, was great and was particularly well done in how Wart’s lessons tie together to help him get the sword out of the stone. For some reason, though, the bits in between just didn’t hold my interest, and that hampered my enjoyment of the book a little bit.

I haven’t seen the Disney version but I’d be interested in doing so to see what they’ve made of it – I imagine most of it translates brilliantly into an animated film.

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart had been on my wish list for years and I finally got round to reading it just before the film came out, on the grounds that I can’t see a film based on a book before I’ve read the book. The film was pretty good and I completely loved the book.

I loved Inkspell too. I’m not sure about the ending – it was more like reading the end of a chapter than the end of a book, but it does pretty much guarantee that I’ll read Inkdeath (which isn’t out in paperback until June, dammit!). While the first book was set in our world Inkspell begins with Dustfinger returtning to the Inkworld, and naturally Mo, Meggie, Resa and Farid end up there too. Despite the difference in settings it feels very familiar, probably because of the time spent in Capricorn’s village in Ikheart, and I really enjoyed returning the the characters (particularly Dustfinger, who remains one of my favourite characters ever) and the story. Inkworld is well described and you can understand why, despite the harsh life and the villains, the characters fall in love with it.

I really enjoyed getting list in this.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I discovered Neil Gaiman’s books last year – I think mainly because the I liked the look of the Stardust film, but I have a thing about making sure I read the book before I see a film adaptation. I really enjoyed Stardust, then went on to read Neverwhere, Good Omens and American Gods, all of which I loved. So I was really pleased when a friend bought me this for Christmas.

It’s a children’s book so much shorter and with less complex language than the other Gaiman books I’ve read. However that doesn’t mean less attention was paid to the story and characters, and I really enjoyed it. It tells the story of Nobody Owens (Bod to his friends). The Man Jack breaks into his home when he’s a baby and murders his family, but Bod manages to escape. He makes it to the local graveyard and is then brought up by its residents.

It’s a coming of age story with a thriller behind it, as the Man Jack never gives up on trying to get to Bod. The illustrations fit really well with the style of the story and Silas, Bod’s mysterious guardian who doesn’t fit neatly into the living or dead categories, is one of my favourite literary characters ever.