Coraline is dark yet magical fairy tale about a girl whose end of the summer in a new flat turned out to be everything but ordinary. That new flat was in utterly old and creepy house that once might have belonged to some contemporaries of E.M. Forster, but now was in disrepair, possibly because of some dark secrets that little girl uncovered.
New surroundings and feeling of utter loneliness and boredom attracted things that should have stayed undisturbed, and yet, wasn't she so adventurous and curious, she mightn't ever have discovered what her courage and wits, together with genuine kindness of her heart and one particular furry ally, can do - and she did some great things every girl or boy of her age should be proud of.
In this story Neil Gaiman achieved to sell eternal values every child should be aware of, without being not a least bit patronizing, while confronting readers with some terrifying images that sound disturbing to children and adults alike. Buttons instead of eyes, spidery hands, hallway walls slimy, soft and warm on touch, cocoons with some undescribable creatures -- Henry Sellick already had some great experience with Nightmare Before Christmas, so the stop-motion adaptation of this story should have been a piece of cake to him. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those things have inspired Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth as well. Such imagery is part of our human nature - just think how many times we have dreamt some extraordinarily weird dreams -- never mind that if we couldn't remember them afterwards! - so we shouldn't fear to frighten our children with this story. Their imagination is more vivid and much stronger than ours that is burdened with everyday's trivial worries. I even dare to believe they would be rather grateful for such an offer. It would gratify their sense of self-worth if we would with the approval of this story think them more mature and more valiant than their age shows.