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M is for Magic: Stories

Review

M is for Magic: Stories

Have you ever read something that makes you shiver but then in the next moment makes you laugh at the crazy humor it offers? Does it remind you of stories that you read or heard long ago while still being refreshingly original? Neil Gaiman’s M IS FOR MAGIC is that sort of book, a collection of stories you won’t want to stop reading once you begin.

I won’t provide descriptions of all 11 tales in this anthology; instead, I will include a few here that are worth mentioning --- some for their mirth, some for their creepiness, and some for a combination of the two.

As soon as you begin “The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” you realize that the nursery rhyme characters aren’t how you remembered them. Try as I might, I could not prevent myself from laughing out loud as I read this. Little Jack Horner is a hard-boiled detective investigating the mysterious death of Humpty Dumpty. Was it an accident or something far more sinister? Along the way, other familiar characters are thrown into the mix, resulting in a bizarre, darkly amusing mystery.

Among the other stories: “The Price,” about a cat-friendly family whose latest addition may or may not be a source of good luck; “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” which centers on one teenage boy’s bafflement at the world of girls and a possible explanation as to why they can be difficult to understand; and “Sunbird,” in which a group of eccentric foodies set out on an unusual quest.

“The Witch’s Headstone” is one of the most notable stories in this collection. It is about a young orphan named Bod who has been raised in a graveyard by kind spirits. His foster family has always been protective of him, but when he decides to return the seemingly kind gesture of a stranger, he ends up facing greater challenges in the troubling world of the living. In many horror stories, the premise of venturing into a graveyard often has unsettling results, but this story’s atmosphere is more wondrous and spooky than scary. (Gaiman reportedly is writing a novel featuring Bod and his “spirited” family, tentatively titled THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.)

It should be noted that this book isn’t meant for very young people, due to some thematic elements (such as sensual references like those in “Troll Bridge”). But if you’re looking for a great mix of short stories that are surprising and indeed a little odd, then M IS FOR MAGIC is an anthology worth reading.

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Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle on October 18, 2011

M is for Magic: Stories
by Neil Gaiman

  • Publication Date: July 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0061186422
  • ISBN-13: 9780061186424