A cross between a horror story and a fairytale, Coraline is a children’s novella written by celebrated author Neil Gaiman. It’s a thrilling, engaging read packed with ghosts, talking cats, and other strange creatures. Coraline also includes whimsical illustrations by either Dave McKean or Chris Riddell, depending on the edition of the book.

Thanks to Gaiman’s straightforward and intriguing approach to storytelling, Coraline can be used as an accessible introduction to or review of basic literary elements such as plot, setting, and character. Further classroom discussions can center on the novella’s various themes, including the power of courage, the need for identity, and the importance of family.

Younger readers will easily relate to Coraline’s struggles—who hasn’t ever felt bored or misunderstood, especially as a kid? Furthermore, students will be inspired by Coraline’s bravery in the face of truly frightening experiences. To paraphrase Coraline’s own words, if she can battle against monsters and win, then regular stuff, like going to school, is no sweat!

Get the facts about teaching Coraline below!

Summary of Coraline

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 2002
  • Length: 194 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 740
  • Recommended Grade Band: 5-7

Coraline isn’t having the best summer—her parents are too busy to play with her, her meals are boring, and her new neighbors keep mistakenly calling her “Caroline.” One night, while exploring her family’s apartment, Coraline comes across a door that leads to an alternate world in which everything is interesting. There, she meets an “other mother” and “other father” who shower her with attention. But when Coraline returns to her own world, she discovers her real parents have been kidnapped by the “other mother.” Although she is scared of entering the alternate reality once more, Coraline must face her fears if she wishes to rescue her parents.

What Your Students Will Love About Coraline

  • Following Coraline’s journey as she overcomes her fears
  • The imaginative portrayal of the alternate world

Potential Student Struggles With Coraline

  • Some scary imagery and unnerving character descriptions

Learning Objectives for Coraline

  • Compare and contrast Coraline’s experiences in the real world and the alternate world.
  • Identify literary devices used in the novella, such as foreshadowing, allusion, and simile.
  • Recognize the ways in which Gaiman builds suspense throughout the novella.
  • Analyze how the novella's illustrations contribute to the narrative.
  • Explain how Gaiman uses mirrors to symbolize the differences between reality and the alternate world.

Literary Elements in Coraline

  • Allusion
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Foreshadowing
  • Personification
  • Setting
  • Simile
  • Theme
  • And more!

Major Themes in Coraline

Courage — Over the course of the novella, Coraline learns the importance of having the courage to do the right thing, no matter how scared she may be.

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Family — After escaping the clutches of the “other mother” and “other father,” Coraline comes to realize how much she loves and appreciates her real parents, faults and all.

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Identity — At the novella’s start, Coraline feels insecure about herself, especially since the adults around her tend to ignore her. But upon defeating the “other mother” and rescuing her parents on her own, Coraline feels a greater sense of self-worth.

Related Works:

Other Resources for Coraline

Order Coraline Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
Coraline Paperback Student Edition

This free guide was originally posted in July 2018. It has been updated as of October 2019.