Best-selling fantasy author Neil Gaiman has become a household name to fans of the genre, with books and graphic novels such as The Sandman, Coraline and Anansi Boys. As a child, Gaiman found that short stories were ideally suited to how he read, offering potent mouthfuls of other worlds, just the right size to be swallowed whole before lights-out. Another benefit of story collections is their diversity—if one tale doesn't suit, the reader can always skip ahead to the next. Both of these elements make Gaiman's inventive new collection, M Is for Magic, a particularly good choice for summer reading.
One of my favorite stories is "Chivalry," in which an elderly widow purchases the Holy Grail from her neighborhood thrift shop. An errant knight appears and attempts to win the Grail from her, only to be put to work on delightfully mundane tasks, his offers staunchly refused. A favorite of a different sort, "The Price" leaves readers with an unsettled chill. A devoted rescuer-of-cats learns that a favorite stray is actually rescuing him, fighting a losing battle with the devil, who is stalking the narrator's family. And then there's the dreamy, utterly terrifying "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," where two would-be Romeos crash the wrong party in search of some action and end up angering a universe.
"Horror stays with you hardest," Gaiman says; "Fantasy gets into your bones." Stories can terrify or entrance—in M Is for Magic, they do both at once. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 June #1
Ten short stories and one poem, some presented here for the first time, allow one of the modern masters of fantasy to strut his stuff, particularly that of the deliciously creepy variety. A man who has put off the troll under the bridge in his youth yields to ennui at last and gives over his life; a sinister Jack-in-the-box plants madness in the minds of children; a living boy is raised in a graveyard by the dead. There's some lighthearted material as well, though. A hardboiled detective tries to solve the murder of Humpty-Dumpty; a master con artist spins the yarn of his greatest swindle; a little old lady very nearly thwarts the quest for the Holy Grail when she buys it in a junk shop. The variety and pacing makes every transition a surprise, though it's clear that many of the stories were not written with a child reader in mind: These tales are a definite step up in sophistication from Coraline (2002), and will repay older readers handsomely. (Short stories. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 July #1
Taking both inspiration and naming convention from Ray Bradbury's R Is for Rocket and S Is for Space , Gaiman's first YA anthology is a fine collection of previously published short stories. Although Gaiman's prose skill has improved markedly since the earliest stories included here, one constant is his stellar imagination, not to mention his knack for finding unexpected room for exploration in conventional story motifs. Jill Dumpty, sister of the late Humpty, hires a hard-boiled detective to look into her brother's tragic fall; the 12 months of the year sit around in a circle, telling each other stories about the things they've seen; an elderly woman finds the Holy Grail in a flea market and takes it home because of how nice it will look on her mantelpiece. Collectors will be pleased to note the inclusion of several stories that were previously published in the now-hard-to-find collection Angels & Visitations . Also of note is fan favorite "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," which has been nominated for a Hugo Award for 2007. Though Gaiman is still best known for his groundbreaking Sandman comic book epic, this volume is an excellent reminder of his considerable talent for short-form prose. Ages 10-up. (July)[Page 54]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up-- This chilling collection contains 10 short stories and a poem. In one, a teenaged boy is at a party with a group of beautiful girls and, as usual, he has such a hard time talking to them that it seems like they're from another planet--except this time they really are. In another, a man discovers that his newly adopted stray cat is taking a beating every night to protect his family from the devil. "The Witch's Headstone" introduces a boy who lives in a graveyard and has ghosts for foster parents. While the book's packaging will appeal to middle graders who embraced Gaiman's Coraline (HarperCollins, 2002), M Is for Magic features mostly adult protagonists and situations that make it best suited to older teens. These readers will also better appreciate the author's use of disparate sources and styles to enhance the humor and depth of the pieces. Little Jack Horner is a private detective in a tale that reads like a collaboration between Mickey Spillane and Mother Goose; Sir Galahad of King Arthur's court is no match for a modern-day English widow who bought the Holy Grail at a thrift shop and doesn't plan to relinquish it. Although the stories are creepy, funny, and clever on the page, they are even better when read aloud, and Gaiman's expert storytelling and rhythmic use of language will make the book popular with teachers and librarians looking for new and engrossing read-alouds to share with their classes.--Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT[Page 116]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.