Coraline discussion guide

CORALINE

 

Author: Neil Gaiman

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Suggested year group: 5

Synopsis

There is something strange about Coraline's new home. It's not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It's the other house - the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

Rationale for Selection

Neil Gaiman’s fantasy horror is  a polysemic text inviting multiple interpretations. The story is dark and genuinely creepy but at times undercut with Gaiman's characteristic humour. Like Alice in Wonderland the eponymous heroine is propelled into a strange and disturbing world where she questions herself and events, finds inner strength, resilience, courage and ultimately triumphs.

Before Reading

Ascertain whether any of the children have read the book or seen the film and briefly discuss initial views.

Other worlds: do the children know any stories where characters enter another world from the real world? How do they get there? Make a list of stories and 'portals'.

 

Stories

Portal
Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Wardrobe
Alice in Wonderland Rabbit Hole
Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4

 

What sorts of things happen to child characters when they are transported into the fantasy world. Do they change when they are in that world? or when they re-enter the real world?

During reading

1. 'Coraline wondered why so few of the adults she had met made any sense.' Do you agree?

2. How is Coraline treated by her parents? How is she treated by the other adults in her life? How does the way she’s treated influence her actions? What is the difference between how she is treated in the real world and the other world?

3.‘Coraline knew that when grown-ups told you something wouldn’t hurt it almost always did.’ Do you agree? What examples can you think of?

4.Miss Forcible and Miss Spink read Coraline’s tea leaves and tell her she’s ‘in terrible danger’. Shortly after, the old man upstairs passes on a message from the mice. They warn ‘don’t go through the door’. Why do you think Coraline still chose to go through the door? What would you have done? Have you ever done something you were advised not to do? Why did you do it?

5.The other mother tells Coraline, ‘We’re ready to love you and play with you and feed you and make your life interesting.’ How is Coraline’s life with her other family different from life with her real family? What does Coraline find appealing about life in the other world? Which family would you choose? Why? Did your opinion change as the story unfolded? If so, at which point did your opinion change, and why?

6. ‘Her other mother’s hand scuttled off Coraline’s shoulder like a frightened spider.’ ‘Her long white fingers f uttered gently, like a tired butterfly [...]’ ‘The other mother’s wet-looking black hair drifted around her around her head, like the tentacles of a creature in the deep ocean.’What do these descriptions of the other mother’s appearance and movements reveal about her character?

Note: Questions reproduced with permission from Bloomsbury

After Reading

1. Compare different jacket images of Coraline and also the animated character. Which do they prefer and why? Which most clearly matches the image they have in their heads.

2. Read Alice in Wonderland or selected chapters invite a comparison.  What is unique to Coarline? What is unique to Alice? What features or characteristics do they share? For example, The Red Queen and the other Mother are both surrogate mother’s but seem to work against the best interests of the child in their care. 

The roles of the animal characters can also be compared. The White Rabbit in Alice, the black cat in Coraline. Do they fulfil similar or different functions in the stories?

 

 

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