kellyrfineman (kellyrfineman) wrote,

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The Wolves in the Walls + Coraline = Bradbury Country

Bradbury Season It’s early October. October is a month where darkness makes enormous gains on light here in the northern hemisphere (and vice-versa in the southern). Ray Bradbury, he of fantasy and sci-fi fame, once wrote a collection of short stories called The October Country, which is what gave Colleen at Chasing Ray the idea to celebrate the month with a one-day discussion of scary books. It was Colleen's idea, and she's all about Ray Bradbury, so she coined the term Bradbury Country. Her post explains it far better than mine.

Here are some of the other participants: Lizzy from A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy will be talking about The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding.

Gwenda from Shaken, Not Stirred has a fangtastic post about vampires, and talks about the fairly academic title Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber and the wonderfully gothic novel, My Swordhand is Singing, by Marcus Sedgwick.

Jackie from Interactive Reader is in with The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos.

Eisha and Jules from 7-Imp talk about one of my favorite illustrators, Adam Rex, whom I interviewed back in March. They're talking about Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich with a sneak peak at the sequel. You know you wanna see it!

Betsy at Fuse #8 talks about Ryan Heshka's ABC Spookshow, which looks like something I simply must get my grubby hands on!

Tanita at Finding Wonderland is all about Kindred by Octavia Butler. This book is not strictly speaking a horror title, but is sci-fi involving time travel and slavery. Tanita's explanation for fearing the things that are real as her reason for the choice make good sense to me.

Leila at Bookshelves of Doom has Stephen King's Skeleton Crew, which was one of her fave reads when she was seventh-grader.

Kelly H. at Big A little a has A Beasty Story by Bill Martin Jr. and Steven Kellogg.

Kimberly at lectitans posted about a picturebook called Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci.

Here at Writing and Ruminating
I jumped at the chance to talk about two of my favorites, both from Neil Gaiman.

The Wolves in the Walls

The premise of the book, as it says over at Mr. Bobo's Mouse Circus is that Lucy believes there are wolves inside the walls of her house, only her family doesn’t believe her. They argue with her, each time repeating a "time-honored" adage – "if the wolves come out of the walls it's all over."

And then, one day, the wolves come out of the walls, and Lucy and her family have to flee from their home. But that is not the end, that's just the beginning, as Lucy figures out a way to reclaim their house. Will they reclaim it once and for all? Will they continue to face additional threats from large animals inside their walls?

Well, I'm not saying, definitively.

I am saying, however, that I found this book to be inventive and clever, whereas some of my friends (cough, juliewinkler, cough) thought it to be far too scary to read to young children. I leave the final determination of such things up to individual parents who know their children, but I will say that many of the fears that children have are learned behaviours, and that reading a book where something as improbable as wolves or, say, elephants, living inside their walls is shown to be a silly thing indeed. Because even though it happens inside the book, the opportunity for remarking that such a thing is imposterous (to use a Tigger word) is there. And, well, not to get all spoiler-y here (too late!), but Lucy manages to outwit the wolves, without – I should note – any woodsmen bearing axes or houses made of straw and sticks. And truly, I think kids are clever enough to realize that the wolves and, um, other possible large mammals, inside the walls are a metaphor for the idea of MONSTERS. And maybe, just maybe, if there are no wolves (and/or they can be vanquished through the ingenuity of a child), then the same goes for those hypothetical monsters.

From the FAQ at Mr. Bobo's Mouse Circus:

Q: Are you ever worried that you will introduce a world to children that is too horrific for them to handle?
A: No.
(This from a man whose next children's book will be The Graveyard Book, which will begin following a man with an enormous bloody knife around the inside of a house. He's just slaughtered three members of the family, and is looking for the toddler, who has escaped into the neighboring graveyard. The toddler is then raised by the dead who live in the graveyard. You can see a bit of a reading by Neil here, good for establishing what's going on in the book, and good for writers.


From the FAQ at Mr. Bobo's Mouse Circus:

Q: Why did you choose the name Coraline not Caroline?
A: It started out as a spelling mistake when I was writing a letter to a Caroline. I thought 'what an interesting name,' and I liked the feeling it had of hardness and beauty and of things going on under the surface, like coral.

About the story
When Coraline takes a key and opens the door to the adjoining flat in the house where she lives, she finds a house strangely similar to her own, complete with an Other Mother and Other Father. The house and the Other Parents seem so much better than what Coraline is used to.

When she returns to her own flat, Coraline finds that her real parents have disappeared. Coraline talks to her upstairs neighbor, Mr. Bobo, a retired circus performer who claims to be training mice to perform in a circus and passes along messages to Coraline from the mice, and to her downstairs neighbors, Miss Forcible and Miss Spink, older retired actresses with a pet Scottie dog who see trouble in Coraline's tea leaves and loan her a protective talisman – a small rock with a hole in it.

Coraline also meets a black cat, which proves to be the only creature that not only listens, but believes Coraline's account of things. (The local police are decidedly unhelpful.) The cat is very understanding in the regular world, but can actually converse with Coraline in the Other House.
Coraline discovers that she must go back to the Other Mother, who wants to keep her soul and sew buttons for her eyes, in order to find and free her real parents, and in order to release the souls of three other children from throughout history who opted (in their days) to be with the Other Mother.

While in the Other World, she meets colorful, younger versions of Miss Forcible and Miss Spink, who perform on stage for a Scottie, and later meet a somewhat spiderwebby ending, and a scary replica of Mr. Bobo, who has an awful lot of scary rats.

From the FAQ at Mr. Bobo's Mouse Circus:

Q: Do the rats have any plans for World domination?
A: Yes.

Coraline must use her intelligence to outwit the Other Mother and free the trapped souls of the children, to say nothing of rescuing her parents from their prison. And even when she thinks her task is over, she finds she must defeat the Other Mother once and for all by disposing of the key to the parallel dimension . . . to say nothing of her need to dispose of the Other Mother’s right hand.

This book is completely horrifying to many adults that I know (my Gaiman-loving mother-in-law included), although I’m juvenile enough to find it completely delightful. As, might I add, is Philip Pullman, who reviewed it quite favorably for The Guardian in 2002. Coraline also won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella, the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella, and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers along with a host of other honors and awards, so clearly Philip Pullman and I aren’t the only grown-ups who loved it.

Coraline is being made into a movie using cutting-edge stop-motion animation. This image is from the promotional poster for the film. Cool yet menacing, no?

From the FAQ at Mr. Bobo's Mouse Circus:
Q: Why does [sic] all your books contain scenes in which you tell us about what they're dreaming?
A: Because dreams are important.


But wait! That’s not all! Coraline is also going to be a graphic novel, illustrated by P. Craig Russell and lettered by Todd Klein, allegedly due to be printed by HarperCollins in 2007, although I couldn't locate a date. Here's a wee bit for you:

Want to see something vaguely creepy? (The music itself is enough to be a bit freaky): Check out the book trailer for Coraline from, which features Italian titles.

And, for a laugh, here’s a link to the Unshelved Comic Strip version of Coraline.

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Tags: book reviews, bradbury country, events, gaiman

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