CORALINE taps into the basic fears and desires of children - of being ignored, and of finding adventure / excitement / being special. This last one a double edged sword.
The world of adults is boring, confusing, unpredictable ... and often refuses to give children recognition without condescension. For a children's writer, it can be vitally important to recognise this last point.
Children's writers must tread a fine line. Context and language do have to be adjusted if your book is for children, and not adults. This is a fact. Topics, to a point, are dictated by reading age (some content isn't appropriate, and some will just confuse or mean nothing to kids).
But, any assumptions made by the author - any assumptions at all, about world views or opinions or reactions or what's cool or what's scary or what's difficult or about how the adult world works - can turn sour.
In some ways, it might come down to this: the important thing for authors to get isn't what children don't understand, but what they do understand, but don't agree with. Or, seeing children as clever, thinking, discerning readers with opinions and world-views that aren't wrong, just different, will make you a better writer.
Back to CORALINE. Why do I like it so much? Because for all its darkness and all its light, it makes a much more basic point. Adults and their world can be so wrapped up in itself that they fail to pay attention or listen to children.
Aren't so many good kids books basically about children a) taking things into their own hands when adults won't listen b) finally being listened to because of some action or event.
It's the subversion of who has power, the grown-ups or the kids.
I want my books - I hope they do - to entertain but not patronize. Kids are smart and canny readers, and from that everything else flows