ONCE SAID DARLENE
"Darlene liked to make up stories." But the ones she tells here are mostly just descriptions of her plucky behavior in unlikely places: on a boat in the jungle, hitting snakes with her umbrella; in a tent in the desert, crushing bugs; on a ship in a storm, hitting a pirate with her telescope; and in a castle, where she lived as a princess with magic animals. The other kids get fed up with Darlene for making up such stories, but when one little boy believes her, they're both rewarded--by being transported back to Darlene's sure-enough magic castle. "I made up too many stories. So the magician said I had to go away. I had to go to your world. I had to tell the truth. And I could only come back when one person believed me." The message is clearly pro-fantasy, but Sleator's sentences are thumpingly prosaic--and his concocted surprise ending rings no truer than Darlene's stories.