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6 Books like Coraline: Goth Girls, Aunts & Unfortunate Events

Jane Howarth itcherEerie illustrations and a story that descends from normal to chilling in a matter of chapters make Neil Gaiman’s book hard to put down. Looking for more children’s books like Coraline? Read on for ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ (1973), ‘Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse’ (2013) and ‘Aunt Maria’ (1991). ~ Jane Howarth

What’s Behind These Doors?

Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1965) and The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis, 1950-56) are two perfect choices for readers of any age, even though you might find them in the children’s section. We’ve already opened that secret door and uncovered other children’s books like Moondial (Helen Cresswell, 1987) too.

If you haven’t turned the key yet, go ahead and see what you’re missing. But if you’re looking for something with a little bit of Gothic charm, stick with us as we find out exactly what’s hiding within those walls.

‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ (John Bellairs, 1973)

Lewis Barnavelt is an orphan sent to live with a distant uncle, and like Coraline, he’s an inquisitive child who finds a mystery hiding within the walls of his new home.

Coraline fans couldn’t hope for more where illustration is concerned. Edward Gorey provides the book’s gothic vignettes – his work inspired Lemony Snicket and Neil Gaiman, who wanted the author to illustrate Coraline. But in a twist of fate, the illustrator died on the day Gaiman completed the story.

If you read ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ and love it, great news! There are eleven books in the Lewis Barnavelt series, so you can just keep on going.

Similarity Match: 90%
Things in the walls, weird neighbours and the gothic illustrations that inspired Neil Gaiman should put this book high on your list.

‘Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse’ (Chris Riddell, 2013)

Does Ada Goth look familiar to you? Her story is beautifully (and gothically) illustrated by Chris Riddell, who has worked with Neil Gaiman on several books, including the 10th Anniversary Edition of Coraline.

‘Exploring was her favourite thing to do, especially at night when everyone else was sleeping.’

This heroine doesn’t need to pass through into a parallel apartment because her own world is eccentric enough, but she still shares Coraline’s inquisitive streak. Between a Victorian-style father, house guests and the shimmering ghost of a mouse, she’s got quite enough to discover without going too far afield. In the first book, she uncovers a dastardly plot.

Similarity Match: 90%
Secrets in the shadows and midnight discoveries – Goth Girl shares more than just an illustrator with Coraline, you’ll love following Ada’s adventures in the mansion.

‘A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning’ (Lemony Snicket)

Illustrated by Brett Helquist, The Bad Beginning sends the Baudelaire orphans on a thirteen volume chase to find safety and solve the mystery of the fire that killed their parents. Before we can meet the assorted characters they’ll encounter, we have to make a very important introduction.

Readers, meet Count Olaf. When he’s not keeping the children as servants, he’s threatening their lives. Charming, no?

If you’re wondering, those unfortunate events aren’t on the cover for decorative purposes. Lemony Snicket’s series will terrify and frustrate you in equal measure with near misses, misfortunes and just plain bad luck. And somehow, that always makes me want to start over again as soon as I reach the end.

Similarity Match: 80%
In a suitably dark book like Coraline, this gothic story takes us through stranger and stranger situations.

‘Aunt Maria’ (Diana Wynne Jones, 1991)

After their father dies, the young diarist, her brother and mother are stuck living with the overbearing Aunt Maria in a seaside house. The narrator doesn’t get the worst of it, though – her brother, Chris, finds a ghost living in his room.

‘Neighbor John seemed a good name for the ghost. So we call him that now.’

Like Coraline, some parts of the Aunt Maria world are relatable things that become larger than life, like the horrors of bought cake, while other elements are far stranger.

Similarity Match: 80%
Coraline fans will love the way normal life slides into eccentricity and beyond, into something far more threatening.

‘The Accidental Time Traveller’ (Janis Mackay, 2013)

A boy reluctantly runs to the shops for his mum. On the way, he meets a lost girl in strange clothes, who turns out to be an accidental time traveller who was standing in the 19th Century one moment and the 21st the next.

It’s got a more contemporary feel than Coraline, but I think younger fans will like the slightly spooky aspect of this girl from the past turning up in the present day.

Similarity Match: 70%
This contemporary story takes a pinch of Coraline’s parallel world situation and throws in a girl-out-of-time, making our world the strange one.

‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ (Norton Juster, 1961)

A set of curious instructions lead Milo to the Tollbooth, a gateway to a magical land. ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ is distinctly more upbeat than its list buddies, with a strong moralistic streak, and it weaves in references to a Mathemagician and suchlike. It’ll enchant some readers, though other may not find enough phantoms in their tollbooth.

Similarity Match: 60%
Magical characters take the place of Coraline’s unnerving ones, but if you’re up for a jolly good adventure, jump to the Island of Conclusions with Milo.


One Last Thing…

YA readers, I’ve got you covered! This time, let’s fall down a few mythological rabbit holes. Norse mythology adventure Runemarks (Joanna Harris, 2008) is a great choice with a gifted heroine, while Gregor the Overlander (Suzanne Collins, 2013) sends a young New Yorker beneath the city’s streets. Here are all the details.

If you know any enchanting, chilling or just plain captivating books similar to Coraline, let us know in the comments.

Hi, I’m Jane, BA (Drama, Film and TV) and MA (Cultural and Creative Industries). When I’m not writing about creative things, I’m designing or planning them. If you’re brave enough to risk an avalanche, look behind the stacks of books and DVDs and you’ll find me balancing a cup of tea, a handful of knitting and a cupcake.
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