I read Coraline by Neil Gaiman earlier this Spring, but this would actually be a much better time of the year to read it. It's creepy & spooky & just the thing for a chilly October evening (well, it's in the 80's here today, so I'm not sure about "chilly" but you get the point).
To give you a brief summary, Coraline is a young girl who has just moved into a new flat with her parents, who are always busy working (from home) or making complicated recipes. To busy herself, she explores her new surroundings & meets her new neighbors (who are all a little quirky). She finds a door in the flat that has a brick wall behind it, but finds it fascinating enough to go back and check again - and when she does, this time the brick wall is gone and a tunnel is in its place!
On the other side of the tunnel is a sort of bizzaro-world. Everything sort of looks the same, but it's even better (at first, that is). There is an "Other Mother" & an "Other Father" who seem loving and want to please Coraline. They have these weird button eyes, but that's no biggy - they don't make Coraline eat strange food from complex recipes!
Coraline leaves the "other" reality, back through the tunnel. But she eventually goes back. When she does, it becomes clear that the Other Mother runs the show in this world, and she wants Coraline all to herself, for good. She'll even give Coraline her very own pair of button eyes!
Coraline is a smart girl & she refuses. When she heads back home, however, things are askew. Her parents do not come home after a shopping excursion! After some time, she figures out that the Other Mother is not playing nice anymore and goes back through the tunnel to get them back. This is where things get especially creepy & Coraline must be brave & smart if she wants her old life - and old parents - back.
There are 2 things that will stay with you for a long time if you read this book: the imagery, and the creepies! I still can picture in my mind's eye the tunnel, the perfect sitting room with the snowglobe on the mantle, the Other Father in the basement (that one gets filed under both imagery & creepies). The author does an excellent job of creating lavish images that tend to reverberate.
Then there's the creep factor, another skill the author puts to good use in this book. There's the aforementioned Other Father in the basement scene (seriously, that was the creepiest/scariest scene), being alone in the house when one suspects evil things have happened to one's parents, a multitude of rats....and of course, the Other Mother's hand!!!! I won't go into too much detail, but there are many scary & creepy things happening here. But, you've got to hand it to Coraline....she keeps her wits about her & tackles her problem with courage & intelligence (and some help from the talking cat).
I know this book is marketed to children, but I would think twice before reading it to young children or even letting tweens read it. I think it's more of a PG-13 (and up) kind of read, but it all depends on the individual. I also have not seen the movie, but have it on reserve at the library!
On a final note, Neil Gaiman is a wonderful performer on the book on CD, so if you enjoy audio books, definitely listen to it vs. reading the hardcover. So there's yet another attribute Mr. Gaiman posses - painting a lively image, giving us the creeps, and reading us a really great story!