WHOS AFRAID AND OTHER STRANGE STORIES
Short stories can be hard to sell to children, but this collection is worth pushing. Pearce is a master at adding a soupcon of the supernatural to an ordinary setting. Most of the 11 stories are about a child fending off spite or evil, but some are just tales of wonder. In "A Christmas Pudding Improves with Keeping," a modern boy keeps wanting to make a Christmas pudding, without understanding why, until he sees a ghost and finds the remains of an old pudding that had been poisoned. In "Black Eyes," an unhappy child tries to spoil a happy cousin's contentment by convincing her that a teddy bear has the power to bring disaster into her family. "The Road It Went By" is a wonderfully odd tale of an old gardener who falls in love with a weed root that he could feel "singing" through the dirt. These stories require some sophistication in language as well as in understanding, but their brevity and strong emotional appeal would make them very suitable for reluctant readers who want a good story but haven't much reading stamina. They should also be good for book-talking or reading aloud.