Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Review of Further Chronicles of Avonlea, by L. M. Montgomery

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Further Chronicles of Avonlea

by L. M. Montgomery

Seal Books, 1987. First published in 1920. 199 pages.
Review written September 17, 2019, from my own copy.

I feel guilty reading this book, because I know full well that it was published against the author’s wishes and without her getting any of the profits. She, in fact, sued her publisher to desist publication, and won that case. It’s kind of too bad to go against her wishes after her death.

And yet… stories by L. M. Montgomery!

Now, I was enjoying them thoroughly, marveling in her quirky, humorous characters and the wide variety of situations – until I got to the last two.

What happened when this book was published was that L. M. Montgomery had already split with the publisher of Anne of Green Gables, L. C. Page. So that publisher pulled out stories she had submitted for possible publication in the first volume — Chronicles of Avonlea — but that they had decided not to use.

In her lawsuit, Maud Montgomery claimed that the book damaged her reputation, because she had used some of the plots here in other places.

Well, I disagreed about it damaging her reputation – until I got to the last two stories. The next-to-the-last story uses the same plot as one of the subplots used in Anne’s House of Dreams. There may be other stories repeated, but I couldn’t pinpoint where. I was enjoying them greatly.

But the last story – the last story is completely, horribly, blatantly racist toward Indians and “half-breeds.” Just horribly so. It’s assumed that they are inferior and shouldn’t dare to aspire to fall in love with someone with a “good pedigree.” And things are said about their “natures” – which are simply despicable. It’s even worse than the racism in Kilmeny of the Orchard.

Now, she was a product of her time, and everyone around her thought that way – but that story, “Tannis of the Flats” – is still horrible. And yes, reading it damages her reputation for me – though I doubt that’s the story she was thinking of.

I would have been better off if I’d bowed to the author’s wishes and refused to read this book.

But I was enjoying some gems before I got to that point! L. M. Montgomery got her start writing stories, and she mastered the form. So let me just give my readers fair warning – you might want to stop before you get to the end.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Chronicles of Avonlea, by L. M. Montgomery

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Chronicles of Avonlea

by L. M. Montgomery

Grosset & Dunlap, 1970. Originally published in 1912. 306 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2019, from my own copy

In preparation for a trip to Prince Edward Island in September, I’m rereading all my L. M. Montgomery books in the order they were published. Chronicles of Avonlea is number five in this endeavor.

Maud Montgomery honed her craft by writing stories and getting them published in magazines. She did this for years before her first novel was published. This collection of stories gives wonderful examples of her brilliance. The only I quibble I have with them is that she was being pressured to write more about Anne of Green Gables – and mention of Anne Shirley is shoehorned into almost every single one of these stories. The only one where it’s organic and Anne is an important part of the plot is the first one, “The Hurrying of Ludovic.”

The most brilliant story of all in this collection is probably my favorite short story ever. I’ve done readings of this story when I was in college to entertain my friends and, yes, when I came to this story this time through, I was compelled to read the whole thing out loud.

That Most Delightful Story Ever is “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s,” the story of a woman who hates men and her cat trapped in the home of a man who hates women and his dog. The woman, who is the narrator, does come off best – and both change their attitudes by the end. The process is all the fun and reading it in the narrator’s voice saying, “I am noted for that” makes it utterly delightful.

Honestly, in this read-through, I’m constantly being shocked when I realize these older characters are now younger than me! Angelina Peter MacPherson is forty-eight years old in this story. In fact, many of the main characters in these stories are deep into adulthood. I’m going to file this book in with Teen Fiction, but really these are family stories. It’s all innocent and G-rated, about life and love, but there’s a lot of focus on older folks coming to understand whom they truly love, whether in romance or the love of a child.

This is a delightful collection, written by a master storyteller at the height of her powers.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Few of the Girls, by Maeve Binchy

Friday, April 15th, 2016

few_of_the_girls_largeA Few of the Girls

Stories

by Maeve Binchy

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2016. 319 pages.
Starred Review

I do so love Maeve Binchy’s writing! This collection of short stories is classic Maeve Binchy. Her agent and editors selected many she had written over the years and collected them in this marvelous volume.

There are thirty-six stories with a wide variety of viewpoints. Some leave me inspired and thinking good thoughts, more ready to cope with life. Others leave me laughing at a character who got a worthy comeuppance. All are so true — true to human nature, whether the good side or the bad side of human nature. All are also entertaining.

I think my favorite was probably the woman who was dumped who met a woman who had also been dumped years ago and now spent her time repairing broken china, which remind her of broken hearts.

…she would see also how fragile things could be put together again if you realized that this was possible. Rather than just putting them in the back of a cupboard and pretending that the break hadn’t happened at all.

The stories are short and sweet. I ended up tearing through the collection with great enjoyment. Though I did pause in especially nice places, which is why I especially remember “Broken China.”

For insights on life and love, this is a wonderful collection, but it’s also good for spending time with “a few of the girls” who will feel like old friends.

maevebinchy.com
aaknopf.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?
few_of_the_girls_large

Review of Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies, by David Lubar

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

wireless_weenies_largeWipeout of the Wireless Weenies

and Other Warped and Creepy Tales

by David Lubar

A Tom Doherty Associates Book, New York, 2014. 174 pages.

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. I thought I’d just dip into it, and the first story had me laughing out loud. Mind you, the book got a little long for my taste, but I don’t think kids will have the same problem. And there’s a simple solution: The stories are short, so just read one or two at a time. Even when I thought I was getting tired of it, I found myself picking it up again, and smiling by the time I put it down.

Think of this book as short episodes of The Twilight Zone for kids. It reminded me of Half-Minute Horrors, only with somewhat less variety, since all the stories were written by the same author. However, don’t get me wrong — there is plenty of variety. Some stories are scary, some have bad kids come to a rotten end, some are hugely funny, most have twist endings, and almost all are very clever.

This book, like Half-Minute Horrors, would be easy to booktalk. Simply read your favorite story — they are all very short — and you will immediately hook the readers who like this sort of thing.

I can’t really describe details of the stories without giving away the twists. But David Lubar covers things like what parents will do to get out of throwing a birthday party, technology gone crazy, monsters coming to life, the dangers of being all wrapped up in your phone, alien contact, and how if you’re not nice, it may come back to bite you. Basically, “Warped and Creepy Tales” sums up the book nicely.

davidlubar.com
tor-forge.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book sent to me by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Chestnut Street, by Maeve Binchy

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

chestnut_street_largeChestnut Street

by Maeve Binchy

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014. 368 pages.
Starred Review

Maeve Binchy died in July 2012, so this is a posthumous publication. Her husband, Gordon Snell, explains at the front:

Maeve wrote the stories over several decades, reflecting the city and people of the moment – always with the idea of one day making them into a collection with Chestnut Street as its center. I am very pleased with the way her editors have now gathered them together as she intended, to make this delightful new Maeve Binchy book, Chestnut Street.

This book reminds me more of Maeve Binchy’s earlier books than the later ones – it is composed of many short stories, all including someone who lives on Chestnut Street. Her later novels are similar, but have longer stories, with more of the threads intertwined between stories. A few of the characters do appear in passing in additional stories, besides the ones where they are featured, though there’s definitely not the unity of theme found in her later books.

That said, these are some truly delightful stories. Maeve Binchy knows human nature. So many of these stories, short as they are, leave you with a smile or an insight or just a good feeling that someone made a great choice. I liked that they are short, since that way there are more of them, though it did make it take longer to read – because after a few stories, I found myself wanting to give an appreciative pause rather than barrel on to the end, as I will with a good novel.

A wonderful chance to treat yourself to Maeve Binchy’s characters one more time.

maevebinchy.com
aaknopf.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/chestnut_street.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Guys Read: Other Worlds, edited by Jon Scieszka

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Guys Read

Other Worlds

Edited and with an Introduction by Jon Scieszka
Stories by Tom Angleberger, Ray Bradbury, Shannon Hale, D. J. MacHale, Eric Nylund, Kenneth Oppel, Rick Riordan, Neal Shusterman, Rebecca Stead, and Shaun Tan

with illustrations by Greg Ruth

Walden Pond Press, September 2013. 331 pages.
Starred Review

It’s no surprise that I particularly like this entry in the Guys Read series of stories written for guys. After all, Speculative Fiction is my favorite genre. You can tell from the title page that they got some distinguished talent to write for this book.

I was surprised to find one of my favorite authors, Shannon Hale, represented in the Guys Read series, with a story featuring a girl, no less. Maybe they’re making a point that an adventure story that happens to have a girl protagonist is good reading for guys, too? I like the way they slipped it in there, with no apology whatsoever. It’s about how she becomes a bouncer in a disreputable inn in a fantasy kingdom.

Most of the stories tend more toward science fiction than fantasy, though the lead-off story is a Percy Jackson story from Rick Riordan. Here’s hoping it might entice some kids into reading the whole book. The science fiction includes some silly (“Rise of the Roboshoes,” by Tom Angleberger) and some with that nice kicker ending with implications about earth (“The Scout,” by D. J. MacHale).

To be honest, the story I liked the least was the classic Ray Bradbury story included, “Frost and Fire.” But I wouldn’t argue for a moment with its inclusion. Including Ray Bradbury in a Science Fiction and Fantasy collection is absolutely right. And the story did remind me of ones my brothers liked when I was a kid. This book is intended for guys, after all. And I will happily try to find guys to hand it to.

I like what Jon Scieszka says in the Introduction:

All fiction and storytelling is answering that “What if . . .” question. But science fiction and fantasy go a step further: They bend the rules of reality. They get to imagine the “What if” in completely other worlds.

And that is why good science fiction and fantasy stories can be mind-expandingly fun.

There you have it. Pick up this book if you want some mind-expanding fun.

guysread.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/other_worlds.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an advance review copy sent to me by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Man with Two Left Feet, by P. G. Wodehouse

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The Man with Two Left Feet
And Other Stories

by P. G. Wodehouse

A Digireads.com Publication, 2004. First published in the United Kingdom in 1917.

The Man with Two Left Feet is the first book I read completely on a Kindle. I must admit that I wasn’t even slightly enamored with the Kindle. I don’t like the gray appearance. I don’t like the small number of words on a screen. I’m a fast reader, and scan ahead as I go. Several times, I had to push the button to go back, because I had been scanning and didn’t have any idea what I had read on the earlier page. I hated that it had a percentage bar instead of a number of pages, and I hated that I can’t leaf through it and find good bits when writing this review. Now, mind you, I realize I could have bookmarked things. But I don’t always like to interrupt fiction to do that.

I could probably get used to all these things, but I see no reason to. Now, I did check out this one book as an e-book because the library didn’t have it in print. And on top of that, I wanted to practice putting a book on hold and checking it out, the better to help customers.

Novelist, our online data base of information about novels, lists The Man with Two Left Feet as the first book about Jeeves and Wooster, which is why I sought it out. I found that description a little misleading. Yes, one of the thirteen stories is about Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. But, would you believe it, in this story, Jeeves doesn’t help solve the situation at all!

Bertie’s asked by Aunt Agatha to talk some sense into his friend Gussie, who wants to marry a showgirl. We have humorous situations and reversals, but believe it or not, Jeeves does not save the day!

All the same, the stories in this book are tremendous fun. They remind me of the O. Henry stories I used to devour when I was in junior high. They all have some kind of surprising ending and the humor is shoveled on thick.

So even if Jeeves hadn’t yet come into his own, P. G. Wodehouse was already a masterful comic writer.

Though I would have preferred to read this in a traditional book, I’m glad I got to read it at all. I have to admit, the Kindle was light and easy to carry around, and I may have finished the book sooner than I would have otherwise. Because once I dipped into one of these stories in a doctor’s waiting room or waiting for my son to get glasses, I simply had to finish that story, and maybe a couple more.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/man_with_two_left_feet.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library ebook from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Cloaked in Red, by Vivian Vande Velde

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Cloaked in Red

by Vivian Vande Velde

Marshall Cavendish, 2010. 127 pages.

I loved Vivian Vande Velde’s The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, so I made sure to snap up Cloaked in Red when I heard about it.

In both books, she takes a fairy tale you thought you knew, and casts it in a very different light. Okay, several different lights. She looks at the story from many different perspectives.

Her Author’s Note at the beginning makes some fun points:

“There are different versions, but they all start with a mother who sends her daughter into the woods, where there is not only a wolf, but a talking, cross-dressing wolf. We are never told Little Red Riding Hood’s age, but her actions clearly show that she is much too young, or too dimwitted, to be allowed out of the house alone.”

Or how about the heroine’s unusual name?

“And what happened later in life, when Little Red Riding Hood was no longer little? Did she shift to ‘Medium-Sized Blue-Beaded Sweater’? Did she eventually become ‘Size-Large and Yes-That-DOES-Make-Your-Butt-Look-Enormous Jeans’?”

I love the way she points out how unlikely it all is. Here’s Red in the cottage:

“I don’t like to criticize anyone’s family, but I’m guessing these people are not what you’d call close. Little Red doesn’t realize a wolf has substituted himself for her grandmother. I only met my grandmother three times in my entire life, but I like to think I would have noticed if someone claiming to be my grandmother had fur, fangs, and a tail.

“But Little Red, instead of becoming suspicious, becomes rude.

“‘My,’ she says — as far as she knows — to her grandmother, ‘what big arms you have.’

Big she notices. Apparently hairy and clawed escape her.”

Vivian Vande Velde concludes her introduction with these words:

“However you look at it, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is a strange and disturbing story that should probably not be shared with children.

“That is why I’ve gone ahead and written eight new versions of it.”

The eight stories that follow are amazingly varied, even though you can see how they relate to the fairy tale. These ones seemed darker to me than the ones in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, but then “Little Red Riding Hood” is a quite dark and violent tale.

We’ve got one from the perspective of pretty much every one in the story. I like the one where Jakob and Wilhelm, the dimwitted Grimm brothers, sons of a woodcutter, misunderstand when Grandma’s talking about making a wolf draft-stopper for her granddaughter. My favorite is probably the one about the nice wolf who is trying to be helpful after an annoying little girl steps on his tail, screams, and drops her basket.

“The wolf inhaled deeply the tantalizing smells of meat and baked goods, and was strongly tempted to gobble everything up. But his mother had raised him better than that.

“‘Little girl!’ he called after the fleeing child. He could no longer see her, though her shrieks trailed behind her like a rat’s tail. ‘You forgot your food!’

“Apparently the little girl could not understand wolf speech any more than the wolf could understand human speech, since she didn’t come back.

“If the wolf hadn’t had such a deeply held moral belief system, he could have convinced himself that by leaving the basket behind, the girl had forsaken her rights to it. But, instead, he picked up the basket in his teeth, then loped through the trees, following the trails of wailing, crushed forest vegetation and human scent.”

Reading this book makes me want to try my hand at rewriting fairy tales. Above all, all the variations are clever and inventive and a nice exercise in how point of view changes a story.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own book, ordered from Amazon.com.

Review of Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Lost & Found

by Shaun Tan

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs: #5 Other Teen Fiction

Lost & Found is a collection of three short books originally published in Australia. I find myself wishing they were still separate, because each story is powerful by itself. But I am glad I got to read all three.

Like The Arrival, and Tales from Outer Suburbia, these stories all have a surreal element. The artwork is amazingly detailed, and includes many alien-looking creatures.

The first story, “The Red Tree,” published alone would make an encouraging Oh, the Places You’ll Go!-type gift book, though not as cheery. A girl is having a dark and dreary day, which is vividly expressed with surreal images. But the story ends with a red tree growing in her bedroom, a smile of hope, and these words:

“but suddenly there it is right in front of you bright and vivid quietly waiting just as you imagined it would be.”

I think I can get away with telling the words at the end of the story, because the power to this story lies in the images. You definitely still need to read it yourself to understand the way that final image turns the dreariness around and gives life and hope.

The second story is “The Lost Thing.” A kid finds a strange and large lost creature, not like anything you’ve ever seen before, and needs to find it a home. This requires quite a journey, and there’s some philosophizing about things that don’t quite fit in. Once again, the power is in the pictures and Shaun Tan’s incredible imagination.

The final story, “The Rabbits,” is a sad one, with words by John Marsden and drawings by Shaun Tan. It’s a simple story of the devastation to the native plants and animals when colonists brought rabbits. The rabbits are drawn wearing clothes and acting like the human invaders did. The devastation they brought is bleak and clear, but the ending is open-ended. Perhaps the creatures can be saved.

Shaun Tan’s work, as always, is breathtaking. With this one, you definitely should see for yourself.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/lost_and_found.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

Monday, February 6th, 2012

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales

illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011. 221 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Standout: Children’s Fiction #5

One of the highlights of my year this year was when, on vacation, I was driving my son a couple hours in the State of Washington to visit a college, and I got him to read aloud to me from The Chronicles of Harris Burdick as I drove. He’s 17, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the stories.

But let me backtrack. Many years ago, when I was first married (so about 25 years ago, in fact), a friend of my husband and me gave us The Mysteries of Harris Burdick for Christmas. (Thanks, Len!) It maybe wasn’t a traditional gift to give a young couple, but we both loved it.

In the introduction to this new book, Lemony Snicket summarizes the premise behind the original book:

“The story of Harris Burdick is a story everybody knows, though there is hardly anything to be known about him. More than twenty-five years ago, a man named Peter Wenders was visited by a stranger who introduced himself as Harris Burdick and who left behind fourteen fascinating drawings with equally if not more fascinating captions, promising to return the next day with more illustrations and the stories to match. Mr. Wenders never saw him again, and for years readers have pored breathlessly over Mr. Burdick’s oeuvre, a phrase that here means ‘looked at the drawings, read the captions, and tried to think what the stories might be like.’ The result has been an enormous collection of stories, produced by readers all over the globe, imagining worlds of which Mr. Burdick gave us only a glimpse.”

The original pictures, especially combined with the captions and titles, all have something eerie or surreal about them. For example, there’s the picture that goes with the story “Under the Rug” that shows a lump under a rug, and a man with a bowtie holding a chair over his head about to swing it at the lump. The caption reads, “Two weeks passed and it happened again.”

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the picture that goes with “The Seven Chairs.” You see a grand cathedral, and two priests standing and looking at a nun who is sitting calmly on a chair that is floating into the cathedral. The caption reads, “The fifth one ended up in France.”

Chris Van Allsburg implied so much between the pictures, the titles, and the captions.

Back in 1993, Stephen King wrote a story to go with “The House on Maple Street” (the picture with the caption “It was perfect lift-off.”) For this volume, they asked fourteen distinguished authors (including Chris Van Allsburg) to write stories to go with the pictures.

At first, I thought it might be a shame to actually write down a story. But I’ve been thinking about these pictures too long. I don’t feel like these are the only possibilities. In fact, looking at the pictures still gets your mind spinning — but these offerings are still tremendous fun.

Some do a better job than others, and some used approaches I wouldn’t have ever taken, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed all the stories. In fact, this would be a fine collection of stories even if it didn’t have such an intriguing history. In fact, I hope the publishers will consider making this a tradition every decade or so, and get 14 more authors to write the stories!

My personal favorites, in order of appearance, were Jon Scieszka’s “Under the Rug”; Jules Feiffer’s “Uninvited Guests”; Kate DiCamillo’s “The Third-Floor Bedroom”; Chris Van Allsburg’s “Oscar and Alphonse”; Stephen King’s “The House on Maple Street”; and my very favorite, M. T. Anderson’s “Just Desert.”

These stories are eerie enough, they aren’t for the usual picture book crowd. Teens, like my son, will definitely enjoy them, and so will elementary age kids who can handle and enjoy some creepiness.

Like the years when we’d read our new Harry Potter book in England or Bavaria or wherever we were traveling on vacation, this book, in a smaller way, definitely enhanced my vacation. After all those years of reading to my boys, it’s a treat to find a book that my son is willing to read to me. We only finished half the book on vacation, but when I read M. T. Anderson’s story, I insisted that my son read it as well. I can confidently say this book spans many age ranges.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/chronicles_of_harris_burdick.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Review Copy I got at ALA Annual Conference.