The Ocean at the End of the Lane
I enjoy Mr. Gaiman’s writing quite a bit. I like his wordsmanship, his focus on small details, his always surprisingly imaginative style, and the impact of his dark, intense tone. You can already find several glowing reviews of his books here on my site, and now here’s another one--about The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

This excellent book tells a unique fairy tale centering on a 7 yr old boy (whose name we never know) and his new friend Lettie Hempstock, a girl of this world who came from a much more ancient and more powerful place. An unfortunate event occurs near their houses, which opens a brief connection between our real world and a mysterious magical land. The narrator and Lettie close this gap, however the boy unknowingly brings something back which continues to cause trouble for people around them. This dangerous spirit then infects his family, causing them to do mean, hurtful things. With the help of Lettie’s powerful mother and gran, the two youngsters fight back and finally banish the evil being, but at a great cost.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is deep and creepy, as is most of Mr. Gaiman’s writing. It makes you think about the strength of friends and family, and about standing strong to do what’s right. The main character is my favorite kind of kid who is a complete bookworm, using them as an escape from his otherwise somewhat dull life. He’s not broken or abused or anything, just quiet and studious. He has a nice home, before the bad spirit settles in that is, and he gets along fairly well with his sister, mom, and dad. It’s the evil being that creates all his problems, forcing him to take desperate action to save his family.

I must say the text does cross into scary territory at times, especially when the boy’s dad is basically possessed by this bad fairy thing and he attempts to drown the kid in the bathtub. This is an intense, suspenseful scene, written to really make your skin crawl.

For me, that was easily the worst part. The evil spirit is creepy and spooky at times, but in a supernatural way, not in the psychologically scary way of imagining your parent possessed and trying to kill you. Yikes. Honestly, and I’ve said this before, it’s because of scenes like this I think Gaiman’s books are probably best read aloud. Unless you really know your child or the person you are giving the book to can handle the dark themes within. And he’s such a great writer, you adults out there would certainly enjoy these books as well, while you share them with any youngsters.

Coraline is another Gaiman novel that’s not quite as intense as this one, and is equally as excellent. Well, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a bit better, I think, however they are both great. Maybe start with Coraline and then jump into this one if all goes well. Another quick advantage to reading these aloud, you can skip through any too scary parts, or just discuss the action right then and there, so kids can think through things and better handle them. And they aren’t up in their rooms, by themselves, having their socks scared off!

I definitely recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane for 4th or 5th graders and up. Especially those who like unique fairy tales with magic, neat characters with strong friendship bonds, and a bit of spooky danger. Just keep in mind the dark, creepy tone Mr. Gaiman writes with, and how he likes to tip-toe the line between making your skin crawl and outright scaring you. He does it all with skill, style, and substance though, making his books always thoroughly enjoyable.

Happy Reading!