I started reading Coraline by Neil Gaiman at 8pm one evening. I couldn't stop reading until later that night when I finished the last page. It's that good.
In fact it's better than good. It's genius.
This is one of those rare philosophical and thought-provoking children's books which is quite obviously going to be a classic; the kind of book you can read again and again; the kind that isn't just for children, but for all ages.
An exquisitely sharp and timeless fairy tale, Coraline is also a seriously frightening ghost story. What if a girl discovered a door in her house, behind which lies something that 'smells of something very old and very slow'?
It's such a clever idea: she finds a copy of her world, complete with 'other' parents, carefully modelled on her own mother and father but with sinister differences.
And what if the other mother and father want her to stay with them - forever?
This is the story of a child's immense bravery to save her parents, a sarcastic cat which says exactly what cats would say if they chose to speak human, ghostly children from centuries past, deceiving mirrors and a semi-imaginary world which goes vague at the edges.
We're left unsure was is real and what is not. Is this a tale about a little girl with a vivid imagination, or are Coraline's real parents actually imprisoned in a snow-globe? Where do our dreams end and are we safe or not?
Coraline was published in 2002 and made into a film in 2009. Neil Gaiman is a British-born writer who now lives with his family in the US. He has written prolifically for adults and all ages, including screenplays, comics and fantasy novels.
In his introduction to the 10th anniversary edition of Coraline, Neil Gaiman writes that grown women write to tell him that 'when they were scared they thought of Coraline, and they did the right thing.'
I'm not surprised - this book reaches deep inside you and stays with you.
Gaiman wrote the award-winning book for his daughters because he wanted to tell them 'something I wished I'd known when I was a boy: that being brave doesn't mean you aren't scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.'
Click on the banner below for more reviews of must-read children's books.