Veteran fantasists bring six new short stories to readers in a collection that explores aspects of water both benign and malignant. The subjects are quite varied: a young woman, abused by her grandfather, saves a water-girl and, in doing so, herself; a land-girl meets and falls in love with “The Sea-King’s Son,” in a sort of happy reversal of “The Little Mermaid”; a wily ferryman outsmarts a sea serpent and unseats the old goddesses; a young apprentice Guardian pressed into service far too early nevertheless saves the land from a rampaging Water-Horse; a rebellious mermaid-princess plumbs the depths of the sea’s darkness in “Kraken”; and, in a story sure to please fans of McKinley’s early works, a tired young woman from a modern Homeland finds her way (via her garden pond) to the desert of Damar’s past. Dickinson’s (Ropemaker, 2001, etc.) tales lean toward the dark, the violent, the malevolent; McKinley’s (Spindle’s End, 2000, etc.) are by and large gentler, emphasizing love, not conflict. Despite thematic differences, it is a remarkably consistent collection, tonally speaking, each tale slowly and completely developing its unique setting, plot, and characters with slow, stately language. This language, though, sometimes gets out of hand, particularly in McKinley’s tales, where commas insert themselves freely into sentences that seem to go on and on, until readers who are not paying attention may find themselves at the end of a sentence of which they have forgotten the beginning. Readers who can stick with it will find themselves rewarded with watery riches, and will look forward hopefully to Earth, Air, and Fire. (Short stories. YA)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23796-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2002

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In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.


A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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