Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stories of magic and mystery

I do not often read short stories, but lately, mostly because of other book-bloggers' tantalizing reviews, I've been picking them up more often. This one I think I heard about on Chris's blog, but when I tried to find his review to link to it, I couldn't! (Let me know if I missed it, Chris - or maybe I just hallucinated the whole thing!). Anyway, this collection is targeted at children, and while the publisher's age range is 9-12, my library places it in the young adult section, and I agree with their choice.

There is a wide range of stories here, some long, some short, and all of them with some sort of supernatural or mystical element. They have all been previously published - in fact, the final story, "The Witch's Headstone," is actually a chapter from the recently published The Graveyard Book (which originated in this short story) - so if you are planning on reading that, I'd advise you to skip that story altogether and read it in its full context.

I thought "Chivalry" was hilarious - it's about an old woman who finds the holy grail at a thrift shop, and she thinks it looks so nice on the mantelpiece in her parlor that when a dashing knight shows up to claim it, she has no intention of giving it to him. The matter-of-fact tone and the relationship that develops between the two characters made the story one of my favorites in the book.

"Don't Ask Jack" is shivers-up-the-spine creepy, a story about a toy oozing with secret malevolence. This spooky one would make for a great Halloween read-aloud, and will definitely stay with me for a long time.

"How to Talk to Girls at Parties" is a story about two teens who end up at the wrong party, and discover that the pretty girls they meet there make the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus concept just a bit too literal. This particular story embodies my main reason for shying away from short stories: it sets up a wonderful premise with compelling characters - and then it ends, leaving me wishing it were a novel and dying to know more.

"The Price" is another creepy story that skates along the edge of reality, about a mysterious tomcat who shows up at the narrator's house one day. You might never look at a cat the same way again after reading this one!

I also enjoyed "October in the Chair," which is about the different months of the year sitting around telling tales to each other - it's the kind of tale that gives you a sudden shift of vision, a glimpse at the world in a new light. It's dedicated to Ray Bradbury, whose stories often have that same effect on me.

I very much enjoyed this story collection, as I have all of Neil Gaiman's books that I've read so far. I still prefer novels, of course - and perhaps some of these stories will turn into novels as with "The Witch's Headstone" and The Graveyard Book!

M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen (HarperCollins, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
The Book Swede & His Blog: "I think perhaps the best thing I can say about M is for Magic, instead of saying how good a collection it is, how entertaining and well-written it is, is to shove it into the hands of my youngest relatives as soon as possible."
Hello My Name is Alice: "Just let your imagination run wild when reading this."
Thinking Aloud: "
Gaiman’s tales are rendered with haunting and poignant strokes."


  1. Oh wow I hadn't seen this collection before, it looks great! I've read "October in the Chair" in another short story book and loved it, it was such a creative idea.
    Awesome review :)

  2. I've read "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" and "October in the Chair" in Gaiman's collection Fragile Things, and had pretty much the exact same response as you to both of them. So, it sounds like I should track this one down for the rest of the creepy stories, eh?

  3. Hi Darla D!

    I am sorry to hear about the budget woes and I will try to think of some creative methods to still get out the word.

    But I did love the post you directed us too - it brought back this great memory I have of one day in Denmark, it was snowing, mid-February, I didn't have any plans and wanted to go exploring. I ended up in this great section of town, in their library, curled up reading a book,next to the window as the snow fell. It was awesome! I love libraries, but you know that already. : )

  4. Thanks, Book Zombie! If you enjoyed that story, I'm sure you'll enjoy the others in this collection!

    Fyrefly - I think you need to read the rest of these. I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think of the others!

    VA Gal - Thanks for the kind words - and for sharing your warm fuzzy library memory!

  5. You probably did hear about this one from me. I blogged about it awhile ago and bought both the Subterranean Press edition and this edition, but I haven't read it yet! So that's why you haven't seen a review, lol. I've read most of the stories (if not all of them) in other collections, so this one isn't as high of a priority as some other books! I'll get to it one day though just because I'd love to revisit those stories. Glad you enjoyed it so much!

  6. Chris - oh, so that explains it! Lol. It's no surprise that you have already read many of these, but I'm sure you'll enjoy revisiting them. I actually set this one aside to read The Graveyard Book, which worked out well because the the Witch's Headstone story in it! I'll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts when you get to it.

  7. I have this on next year's list and am really looking forward to it. I just love the cover! I loved The Graveyard Book, Gaiman is great at sppoky short stories.

  8. Rhinoa - I'm sure you'll love this collection. I'll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts when you get to it!


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