QUEEN OF THE COLD-BLOODED TALES

Over 20 brief (average, about six pages) horror yarns that feature heavily motivated ghosts, plus a witch or two, doing nasty things, dripping body parts and various pieces of ick-with-teeth: in short, efficient gross-out tales that kids love and adults take care to read long after eating. These ghosts are mean and revoltingly corporeal. Steal an old lady's money and watch out! The hands burying the boys alive were ``nothing but bones!'' Then no knows ``Where Freddy Is,'' except—yuck!—his family will know where his feet are. In another piece, hands appear unattached and active, and two heads talk and hoot in the woods. Animals are featured in two tales: Old Dare the hound makes a rather compassionate return from the Great Kennel in the Sky, but Big Cat, kept in the cellar with its appreciative owner, crunches up...well, let's say the village is depopulating. Ghosts are really into revenge seemingly for eternity, like the group in ``The Wake-Up Call,'' wiped out in life because the clerk had forgotten the call; now when that clerk ``dropped out of sight,'' it seems to be only the beginning. Earrings whisper, scissors attack, a handle (of a casket) hops around, etc., etc. Old stuff, reminiscent of magazines like Weird Tales, but Brown spins a tight yarn and keeps her eye on the last (splat! eek!) image of each tale. Just the thing for the campfire when ``only a few coals glow in the dark, like eyes.''

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-87483-332-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: August House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1993

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Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful...

KIT'S WILDERNESS

Almond (Skellig, 1999) spins teenagers of very different backgrounds and experience into a whirl of ghosts and dreams, stories-within-stories, joy, heartache, and redemption.

In order to be able to care for his newly widowed grandfather, Kit has moved with his parents to the town of Stoneygate, perched in desolate decline on top of a maze of abandoned coal mines. He is soon drawn to follow wild, unstable, aptly named John Askew into a game called “Death” that leaves him sealed up in a tunnel; Kit emerges from the darkness with images of children and others killed in the mines flickering at the edge of his sight, and a strange, deep affinity for Askew. Inspired by Askew’s brutal family life, and gifted with a restless, brilliant imagination, Kit begins a prehistoric quest tale involving two lost children—a story that takes on a life of its own. Setting his tale in a town where the same family names appear on both mailboxes and tombstones, and where dark places are as common as sad memories, Almond creates a physical landscape that embodies the emotional one through which his characters also move, adding an enriching symbolic layer by giving acts and utterances the flavor of ritual.

Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful story is reminiscent of Alan Garner’s Stone Book quartet. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 7, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32665-3

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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VIDEO

Romano (The Beetle And Me, p. 638) uses a nonlinear narrative and multiple points of view to paint a challenging, perspicuous character portrait. Clinging stubbornly to the illusion that her elementary school clique hasn’t left her behind for new interests and alliances, tough, bossy Janine leads a solitary life, standing alone at the bus stop in the morning, shoehorning her way into conversations at school, and poking around a marshy old mill pond in her free time. For an assignment designed to sharpen observational skills, Janine opts to keep a record of herself—unaware that she is also being watched by Eric, a new classmate with the same assignment, a broken leg, and a ready video camera. Although the cast is large enough to cause occasional confusion, Romano’s teenagers reveal themselves without resorting to tedious self-analysis. Janine, whose utter lack of social skills will not win much sympathy from readers initially, comes to realize that there are other ways to communicate besides browbeating, and shows her mettle in a genuinely frightening climax, courageously (if foolishly) launching a furious verbal attack on a fisherman who has been masturbating openly at the isolated pond. In a compelling show of solidarity, neighbors and police race to back her up, led by Eric, who catches the whole encounter on tape. Unflinching, well told, rich in character. (Fiction. 13+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16517-6

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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