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I’VE KNOWN DAVE MCKEAN for hundreds of years now. Almost twenty, anyway. When we met I was a young journalist, and he was an even younger art student.

We’ve made comics together (Black Orchid, Mr. Punch, Violent Cases, Signal to Noise). He did the covers for the Sandman comics and books (collected in a book called Dustcovers). We’ve done a children’s picture book (The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish), which proved so popular in certain quarters that Dave redid the book cover as a CD cover, and it was on the side of buses all over the world. We have another picture book, called The Wolves in the Walls, which will come out when Dave finishes the drawings.

This is why Dave McKean has illustrated Coraline.

When I finished Coraline I needed some guinea pigs to read it. Dave has a daughter named Yolanda. (He also has a son named Liam and a wife named Clare, but they don’t come into this explanation, except in this sentence, where they don’t do very much, even though in real life Clare plays the violin and Liam runs in and out of rooms wearing different hats to surprise you.) Dave read Coraline to Yolanda, who decided that it was her favorite book, and that she wanted it to be the theme of her birthday party.

So the invitation to Yolanda’s birthday party was the picture of the Mouse Circus that finishes this book.

When Dave e-mailed that drawing to me, I knew that I wanted him to do the rest of the pictures.

Which, to my great delight, he did. And the pictures are very creepy, and very odd and very true. He even went to the house I used to live in, in Nutley, Sussex, and drew it.

I like working with Dave, and hope he keeps drawing things I write forever.

NEIL GAIMAN is the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of the novels AMERICAN GODS, NEVERWHERE, STARDUST (winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award as one of 2000’s top ten adult novels for young adults), the short fiction collection SMOKE AND MIRRORS, and the children’s book THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR 2 GOLDFISH (illustrated by Dave McKean). He is also the author of the Sandman series of graphic novels. Among his many awards are the World Fantasy Award and the Bram Stoker Award. Originally from England, Gaiman