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Reading Discussion Guides

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

About the Book

Coraline’s parents are too busy to play with her. She’s on her own, and when she goes exploring in her new apartment she unlocks a door that leads to a different world. At first it looks familiar, even intriguing, but Coraline quickly learns that evil lurks there. Soon, Coraline is caught in a life or death challenge — to save herself, her family, and three lost children. It is an experience that will forever change her.

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the author of the New York Times best-selling children’s book Coraline and of the picture books The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish and The Wolves in the Walls. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning American Gods, Neverwhere, Stardust (winner of the ALA’s Alex Award as one of 2000’s top ten adult novels for young adults), and the short fiction collection Smoke and Mirrors. He is also the author of the Sandman series of graphic novels. Among his many awards are the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Bram Stoker Award.

About the Illustrator

Dave McKean has created illustrations and photographs for hundreds of CD, book, and comic covers as well as publishing projects with John Cale, Stephen King, and the Rolling Stones. He is probably best known for his graphic novels, including the best-selling Arkham Asylum and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. He also illustrated Gaimain’s children’s books Coraline, The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish. He is the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Cages which won the Alph-Art, Pantera, and Harvey Awards for best Graphic Novel, and Pictures That Tick, which recently won the V&A Museum Illustrated Book Awards Overall First Prize. He has written and directed several short films and has contributed production designs for the second and third Harry Potter films.

Guide provided by Harper Collins.

Discussion Questions

  • Describe Coraline. What kind of a person is she? How does she like to spend her time?
  • How is Coraline treated by her parents? Who are the other adults in Coraline’s life and how do they treat her? What is the difference between how she is treated in the real world and the other world?
  • How does Coraline define bravery? In what ways does Coraline demonstrate bravery? What is your definition of bravery?
  • 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? What family would you choose? Why?
  • Coraline’s other mother tells her that if she wants to stay in the other world there is one thing she must do. What is it? What effect will it have on her?
  • What challenge does Coraline present to her other mother? What will happen if she loses? What will happen if she wins? What makes her think winning is possible? Do you think this challenge is wise? Why or why not?
  • Do the mirrors Coraline encounters in the real world and the other world reflect reality or illusion? How do you know? What is the significance of mirrors in Coraline?
  • When Coraline finds her other father in the basement, he tells her to flee. When she refuses he turns on her, and tries to harm her. How does Coraline respond? What happens as a result?
  • On page 120, Coraline says, “I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if we just got everything we wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything. What then?” Do you agree or disagree with her? How would you respond to her question?
  • How does Coraline’s life change when she returns to the real world with her parents? What does Coraline learn from the experience of being in the other world?
  • After Coraline returns to the real world she receives clues that the other mother’s work is not done. How does Coraline foil the other mother once and for all?


Neil Gaiman
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Fantasy, Fiction