Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Source: Goodreads

Coraline

Neil Gaiman

Pages: 162 pages | Audiobook: 3 hrs 36 min
Published August 4th 2002 by HarperCollins
In Coraline's family's new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only it's different...

At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom. But there's another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” - G. K. Chesterton

What a fabulous tale! The audiobook narrated by the author had me captivated from the first words. What I loved about the audio is the contrast between the dark, spooky story and Neal Gailman’s light, gentle, reassuring voice, which let’s us know everything be okay. This same voice also carries over into the main character herself, Coraline, who in the face of these spooky events, approaches them calmly and thoughtfully. I absolutely LOVED Coraline. She is full of curiosity and her charm doesn’t stop there. She is kind, respectful, and with a mind of her own she's a quick, clever thinker and doer! 

Described as a dark fantasy children’s novella, this is a wonderful tale that all ages can enjoy. 

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Happy Reading!

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Source: Goodreads

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Kelly Barhnhill

Hardcover, 388 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Algonquin Young Readers
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule -- but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her -- even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★

I truly LOVED everything about this book - from cover to final page! I'm struggling to pull together the words to do justice to this brilliant work so I'll simply leave you with this:

If you enjoy stories with a wealth of characters, suspense, intrigue, and layers of meaning that will leave you feeling hopeful, satisfied, and in awe, this may be the book for you!

 

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Happy Reading!

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Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill by Pam Smy

 

Thornhill by Pam Smy - cover
Source: Goodreads

Thornhill

Pam Smy

Pages: 539
Published August 29th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it's shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill's shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines—Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art—Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.

Sources: Amazon

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Carol's Rating: ★★

This was great, spooky read for a chilly evening in October. The story moves along at a good pace and held my interest to the end. It's an eerie tale about Ella, in 2017 and Mary, in 1982.

The chapters alternate between these two with Mary's story told from her diary entries and Ella's story told through intricate illustrations. The story builds in suspense to a surprising end, which in all honesty, disappointed me. It was much darker and abrupt than I expected it would be and Mary's last sentence was creepy and unsettling.

The author does a great job painting a vivid picture about the pain that results from bullying but her message on friendship and how Mary gained it gave me the chills. Otherwise, I'd have given it more than 2 stars. Having said that, I believe the author's goal was to create a spooky tale in which she is successful indeed!

About the Author

 

Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Julia Donaldson (Follow the Swallow) and Kathy Henderson (Hush, Baby, Hush!), among others. She lives in Cambridge.

"I fell in love with drawing at the age of 19. That was a while ago. Since then hardly a day has gone by without drawing something I have seen or imagined. Drawing has given me the ability to capture stories and characters I see all around me, and I love that illustrating gives the opportunity to translate these everyday observations into recreating imagined worlds for authors.

I love stories with atmosphere, history or suspense, especially if those stories give me the opportunity to create strong characters and new spaces and places. I love short stories, books set in powerful landscapes, or rural and pastoral environments. I would love to illustrate classics such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Jamaica Inn, The Secret Garden or Tom's Midnight Garden. To be able to illustrate for Linda Newbery and Siobhan Dowd in books that deal with nature and landscape has been a gift in recent years and has reinvigorated my passion for the illustrated novel."

 

Sources: us.macmillan.com  and elizabethroy.co.uk 

Interviews and Sneak Peaks

I have a special place in my heart for illustrated novels. They can often provide a much more intimate experience than novel written strictly in prose, especially when the illustrations are alluring and thought provoking. When explored in depth, the detailed images can draw you into the story, the atmosphere, and the minds of the characters. I am reminded of Brian Selznic's lovely works such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret and The Marvels, and while Pam Smy's illustrations definitely express the story, they are heavier and more harsh than Selznic's. Perhaps that is a result of the medium being heavy ink, and is certainly fitting for the eerie story of Thornhill. In addition, I found it curious that each chapter is divided by several blank, black pages.

Listen in on this fascinating conversation with Pam Smy, wherein she describes her craft along with the origins, intent, and development of her first illustrated novel, including an explanation for those blank, black pages!

A Conversation with Pam Smy
Publishers Weekly PW KidsCast
Illustrator Pam Smy discusses ‘Thornhill,’ an eerie novel told in alternating written and visual narratives, about a girl named Ella who is mysteriously drawn to an abandoned building near her new home.
 
 

 
 

A Glimpse Inside

Discussion Questions

Source: Novel Gobblers Book Club

  1. Have you read other books by this author?
  2. Did this book remind you of any other books you've read?
  3. What do you think of the book cover? Does it represent the book well?
  4. Was the story what you expected it to be? Were you pleased or disappointed?
  5. If you listened to the audiobook, did you enjoy the narrator? Why or why not?
  6. Was the plot predictable? What were some of your predictions and were they correct?
  7. What did you find unique about this story?
  8. Were the characters believable and lovable?
  9. Were there any moments in the book surprised you? Did you feel suspense? Did the story hold your attention?
  10. Who were your favorite secondary characters?
  11. What did you like or dislike about this book?
  12. Is there a moral to this story?
  13. What do you imagine Prince Cakes taste like?
  14.  Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?
  15. Will you look to read other books by this author?

Happy Reading!