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Oddest of All

Review

Oddest of All

Master storyteller Bruce Coville continues to wow readers with his quirky tales in this anthology of nine stories that are magical, frightening, hilarious and touching.

ODDEST OF ALL opens with the thought-provoking "In Our Own Hands," in which Earth is given a mind-boggling choice. It all begins in a time set in the future when Johnny, home from college, is getting ready to dig into his breakfast cereal in front of the television. Suddenly he notices that the newscaster has been replaced by a female with blue scales, green hair and huge eyes. Although Johnny and his mother believe at first that someone is playing a joke when she greets the "people of Earth," they soon realize it’s no prank. Of course they are terrified, especially after the aliens demonstrate their power. But they soon discover that Earth's inhabitants are being given an opportunity to decide the planet's future. The story's ending will make readers ponder for a very long time.

Most of the collection's tales are fantasy, but "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" is a realistic "horror" story that any teen can relate to. Murphy Murphy is not exactly rolling in good luck (there's that name, just to start with). Will his life get rosier now that his crush, Tiffany, seems to be noticing him, too? How much is Murphy crazy about Tiffany? After she asks if she can speak to him, he is tempted to say, "Your words would be like nectar flowing into the hungry mouths of my ears…" Thus, when Tiffany asks him to take part in her drama club skit, Murphy readily agrees, ignoring for the moment that he suffers from literally paralyzing stage fright, in a setup for hilarious tragedy.

While "The Ghost Let Go" begins as a typical campfire ghost tale, it takes some unexpected turns with satisfying results (Coville fans will likely recognize the intriguing main characters Nine Tanleven and her buddy, Chris Gurley, from three of his novels). "In the Frog King's Court" deals whimsically with the main character's heritage while touching on environmental issues.

We find out why Margaret hates water in the mysterious and evocative "The Thing in Auntie Alma's Pond." Although it's hard to pinpoint a favorite in a collection this entrancing, this is one tale that is sure to haunt readers while giving them a major case of goosebumps. Geoffroi goes to the ends of the earth for the strangest and most perfect present in "The Hardest, Kindest Gift," and the long-ago mystery of a boy's disappearance is solved in "The Mask of Eamonn Tiyado" (this story is truly creepy and another of my personal favorites).

Even in the afterlife, a dead boy manages to continue his lifelong bad habits as we discover in the sizzling "Herbert Hutchison in the Underworld." The collection ends on the perfect note with the high fantasy "The Boy with Silver Eyes," filled with unicorns, talking trees, goblins and mermaids --- as well as a harp-strumming hero.

I sometimes forget how satisfying a book of truly great short stories can be. There's something fine about savoring complete plots in brief snatches; it’s like sampling several delicious dishes instead of sitting down to one huge meal. ODDEST OF ALL is packed full of luscious treats. Readers may be hard-pressed to decide if they will gulp them down in one sitting or pace themselves. Either way, they are sure to be reluctant to reach the end of this pleasurable repast.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on September 1, 2008

Oddest of All
by Bruce Coville

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • ISBN-10: 0152058087
  • ISBN-13: 9780152058081