Neil Gaiman has been called “the most famous author you’ve never heard of,” probably accurately enough, despite his (at last count) 39 major awards in various genres. He’s written landmark comic book series (The Sandman), bestselling—New York Times-type bestselling—novels (American Gods, Anansi Boys) and major screenplays (Beowulf). Three writers who are also fans—Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden and Stephen Bissette—have annotated, classified and admirably laid out Gaiman’s entire career and extraordinary influence in Prince of Stories (Fenn). They’re very good in particular on a genre in which Gaiman is very good too: children’s stories. That means, in particular, Coraline, which is simply one of the best kidlit stories ever penned by anyone. And the only one I know of that simultaneously thrills children as a great adventure tale, and frightens the mortal stuffing out of their parents. It’s one of the creepiest books I have ever read, but was a great cheerful favourite of my then eight-year-old daughter when I read it to her. It comes as no surprise to learn here the name was originally a mistake—Gaiman had been trying to type a letter to a Caroline. Years later he remembered it as a perfect name for a little girl character who reminded him of coral, “which is both beautiful and hard and hidden.”
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