Readers of a certain age will recall reading Duncan’s stories in Seventeen and Calling All Girls.
Fourteen stories are collected here with a prologue and commentary on each by the award-winning author best known for her young-adult novels. At the age of 13, she sold the story “P.S. We Are Fine,” which was the genesis of Hotel for Dogs. “Return,” about a soldier home from war, was written when she was 18. She still wonders why it won Seventeen’s creative-writing contest in 1953. But it’s clear that she had a talent for natural-sounding dialogue and an insight into human relationships. Aside from their origins as the author’s early work, there’s no real unifying theme; it’s a pity there is no editorial introduction to lay them out. The most autobiographical of the stories, “The Last Night,” is told from the perspective of a room that has seen a girl become a young woman. It provides an answer to that often-asked question—why she writes: “Anne comes again to her desk and reaches for the words. They are still there, shining and golden at her mind’s edge. They tremble on her pen and dance onto the paper” until her pen runs out of ink.
Of interest mainly to fans, this collection stands as a tribute to the body of work that has poured out of Duncan’s pen since she herself was a girl. (Short stories. 12 & up)