I can’t make up my mind whether this is an adult fairy tale masquerading as a book for children or a children’s fairy tale appealing to adults. I am confused by Gaiman’s skills as a writer (which appeals to adults) or to the age of the characters (which appeals to children). On the whole, I’d choose to put it in the adult fantasy genre. I think the character of Ursula Monkton and the actions of the father are too frightening for children.
The use of the maiden-mother-crone imagery for the Hempstock women is the most appealing aspect of the book. The life-threatening actions of Ursula and the boy’s father under her influence are the most frightening. Children need to trust in their caregivers, not be afraid of them. This element was what I found most troubling about Coraline as well.
Things are often not what they seem, and that can be frightening to us adults as well as children.