Friday, September 13, 2013

Review Me Twice... Twice: Coraline

On the left, you have the novel (as illustrated - intermittently - by Dave McKean), and on the right is the graphic novel (as illustrated - thoroughly - by P. Craig Russell).

I was introduced to Neil Gaiman's work by one of the most incredible teachers Cassy and I have ever had (shoutout to Dr. Miskec! Holla!) in a young adult literature class where she shared Mirrormask with us. The next year, I had her children's literature class, and we read Coraline. In the intervening time, I had read everything I could get my hands on with Gaiman's name on it, and Coraline fell short, in my opinion. It's good, and as far as novels for young children, it's amazing in that it doesn't talk down to kids and it's an imaginative, fun, genuine story. But I still didn't love it like I loved everything else.

I just picked up P. Craig Russell's interpretation about a week ago, and I like the story more (even though it really is the same exact story, in the same exact wording as much as possible) and I like the drawings more. That's unusual in one sense because I love Dave McKean's work, especially in conjunction with Gaiman's writing, but Russell's take just works better.

Some stories are told best in a visual medium. Perhaps this is one of those stories for me. (That said, I haven't seen the movie and don't care to, despite my love of stop-motion animation. I just remember being incredibly underwhelmed by all the media surrounding its release, and I haven't heard a single person tell me something enticing about it. I'll probably see it eventually, but in the meantime, Russell's graphic novel version works great for me.)

We are all aware that I'm not really the graphic novel lover on this blog.  And I think the BIGGEST problem with the GN this week is that I was already so familiar with the Coraline story.

How Russell portrayed Coraline is not how I have envisioned her at ALL over the years.  I thought that she was too old and too blond.  And that threw me out of the GN for its entirety.  I just couldn't get over how WEIRD Coraline looked.  Also, as happens with a graphic novel, the dialogue was, well, just that,  dialogue.  There's not a lot of descriptors going on because you're supposed to DRAW that stuff.  So when I read the GN of Coraline in comparison with the book, I realized that I just love the book so much more.

Maybe that's because Gaiman is an amazing writer.  I mean, of the few books I've read by him, I actually like Coraline the best (to be fair, I've only read about three books by him, so that opinion could change).  I think it's a great book and so very his style and manages to be a decently creepy kids book with this awesomely independent kid.  I just don't think it translated well into graphic novel.  I feel like something was lost.

That's not to say that EVERYTHING about the graphic novel was terrible.  I really liked Russell's portrayal of The Other Mother.  She was creepy, and seeing her in a multitude of frames, really just drove home that extreme creepiness.  And I liked that we got to see the house.  It was, actually, exactly how I pictured it in my head.

Coraline is a GREAT book, but if you want to read the story, pick up the book.  It's actually probably shorter than the graphic novel.

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