Tag Archives: short stories

Marge in Charge by Isla Fisher

Everyone loves a good story about a cool babysitter or nanny, like Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee or Nanny Piggins.  Now there is a new character to add to that list, the larger-than-life Marge.  Jake and Jemima’s life becomes incredibly exciting when Marge arrives.

9781848125339

Meet Marge, the mischievous babysitter with rainbow hair who loves to make a mess and bend the rules . . . At dinnertime Chef Marge cooks up chocolate soup, and at school Marge the Muscian conducts a chaotic concert in the playground!

Jake and Jemima have brilliant fun with their new babysitter, but will they manage to tick off all the jobs on Mummy’s list?

Marge in Charge is a hilarious, entertaining collection of stories about the magic that Marge brings to Jake and Jemima’s life. Isla Fisher’s stories about Marge will have children laughing out loud and wishing they had a babysitter who was this much fun.

Jemima and Jake don’t think that Marge is going to be any fun, especially when she turns up at their house looking like a strict old lady.  They have no idea of the adventures that await them.  Marge has so many stories to share and you’re never quite sure which are real and which ones she’s made up. Marge brings out the fun in any situation and makes everything better, from birthday parties to school.  It’s not only Jemima and Jake that fall in love with Marge, all the other kids at school want her as their babysitter too.  There are three stories in this first collection and I certainly hope there will be more stories to look forward to.

Marge in Charge is a perfect read-aloud to share with a class or snuggled up with your kids.  Kids aged 6-10 especially will love Marge and her crazy antics.  The book is illustrated throughout by Eglantine Ceulemans delightful illustrations.  She makes Marge’s larger than life character jump off the page.

Check out this video of Isla Fisher introducing the series:

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Death or Ice Cream by Gareth P. Jones

I love finding authors who write a wide range of stories.  They don’t just write the same kinds of stories for the same age group, but really branch out and write all sorts of stuff.  Gareth P. Jones is one of those authors.  I first discovered Gareth when I picked up his first book, Constable and Toop.  I loved this book so much that I just wanted to read everything that he had written.  He stories can be hilariously funny, spooky and spine-tingling, or eerie and mysterious, and can feature ghosts, dinosaurs, and pirate robots.  In Gareth’s latest book, Death or Ice Cream? he takes us to the town of Larkin Mills and introduces us to the weird and wonderful characters that call this place home.

DeathLarkin Mills: The Birthplace of Death! Larkin Mills is no ordinary town. It’s a place of contradictions and enigma, of secrets and mysteries. A place with an exquisite ice cream parlour, and an awful lot of death. An extraordinary mystery in Larkin Mills is beginning to take shape. First we meet the apparently healthy Albert Dance, although he’s always been called a sickly child, and he’s been booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then there’s his neighbour Ivor, who observes strange goings-on, and begins his own investigations into why his uncle disappeared all those years ago. Next we meet Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man. Make sure you keep an eye on Mr Morricone, the town ice-cream seller, who has queues snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavours Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. And Mr Milkwell, the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets locked up in his hearse. Because if you can piece together what all these strange folks have to do with one another …well, you’ll have begun to unlock the dark secrets that keep the little world of Larkin Mills spinning.

Death or Ice Cream? is dark, devilish and fun and I loved every minute of it!  The book is a series of interconnected spine-tingling stories, with a large helping of black humour, that draws you into the strange town of Larkin Mills.  Gareth made me laugh out loud, shiver and cringe.

I love the way that each of the stories interconnect and interact with each other.  There are characters (Mr Morricone) and objects (a vial of purple liquid) that pop up in a few of the stories and you wonder about the significance of these.  A story that you have just read could relate to the story that you read next, and I often thought it was quite clever how they related to each other.  Each of the stories is a piece of the jigsaw that you add to with each new story, and by the end of the book we know all about Larkin Mills and its secrets.

There are so many characters to love in Death or Ice Cream?  We get brief glimpses of characters, only to realise that they are much more important than you thought, and they turn up in another story.  In the first story there is a man going door-t0-door selling anecdotes.  You don’t learn much about him but you just know that he will turn up later.  Like the town itself, many of the characters appear to be hiding something.  Why, for example, is Mr Morricone’s Ice Cream Parlour so popular?  Why does his ice cream have such wicked sounding names, like Mowed Down Madness or Trigger Finger of Fudge?  Then there is the undertaker, Mr Milkwell, who runs a hotel/funeral home where the guests are both living and dead.

The TV shows that Gareth has added into the book gave me a good chuckle too. My favourite is called Flog It Or Burn It, where competitors are trying to sell their family heirlooms against the clock.  The person with the most unsold items has their burnt in front of a live studio audience.  It sounds much more exciting than Antiques Roadshow or Cash in the Attic.  One of the characters loves watching competitive basket weaving, which I’m sure would be thrilling.

Pick up a copy of the devilishly funny Death or Ice Cream? now and discover what’s going on in Larkin Mills.  This is one town you don’t ever want to visit!

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Dave Shelton

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by award-winning author, Dave Shelton.  Dave’s debut novel, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, won the 2013 Branford Boase Award and was shortlisted for the 2013 CILIP Carnegie Medal & the 2012 Costa Children’s Book AwardsDave’s most recent book is the seriously spooky Thirteen Chairs, a series of thirteen interlinked short stories that will send a chill down your spine. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it!  Dave joins me today to talk about writing Thirteen Chairs.  Thanks for joining me Dave!

It’s interesting what different people find scary. When I wrote Thirteen Chairs I had an idea that I was writing for readers aged maybe eleven and up, so I wanted not to include anything too gruesome, in terms of explicit blood, guts and gore, but I did want to be properly scary. So I set out to try to get inside the reader’s head a bit and to make them imagine the worst thing for them, rather than be too specific about details that I might find frightening but which the reader might just shrug off. Occasionally I would lead the reader part way along a certain route and then leave them to carry on and imagine what happened next after I had brought the story to a close. It’s something I’ve noticed occasionally when returning to books and comics I’ve read in the past looking for a particular scene that I remember vividly and I find it isn’t actually depicted at all, it’s only suggested. I’d just been given the space to imagine it for myself. And yet sometimes that’s the part I remember the best. This is also why I only drew one illustration per story: I didn’t want to impose my images in a reader’s mind when they were certain to provide better ones themselves if suitably prompted. I was trying to be clever (or maybe lazy; but sometimes it’s possible to be both).

Thirteen Chairs

In certain other respects, though, I was neither clever nor lazy (quite apart from the monumental error of thinking that short stories must surely be an easier option than a novel – er, nope!) I had decided that, rather than a collection of unconnected short stories, I wanted there also to be a linking narrative that would connect the individual stories in some way. The idea I eventually settled on was that each of the stories was being told by one of thirteen odd characters gathered together in a deserted house. As such, each story would be written in the distinct ‘voice’ of the character telling it. This decision was not clever. This decision was not lazy. I thought it would be an interesting exercise, a way of providing variety throughout the book (both to the reader and to me writing it). I thought it would be fun.

Ha!

Actually, to be fair, occasionally it was: when I wrote as the young, possibly slightly autistic, Amelia in the story The Girl in the Red Coat, I had a whale of a time; when I rewrote The Red Tree from being told as a slightly ironic folk tale to being voiced by the Eastern European giant Piotr in his somewhat fractured English, I amused myself greatly; when I became gossipy Josephine relating the story of the demonic cat Oswald, I had a rare old time of it. But mostly … mostly it was just hard work keeping track of everyone. In my previous book A Boy and a Bear in a Boat I had (albeit accidentally) been really clever in choosing to write my first substantial piece of prose fiction with only two characters in the whole story. Two characters; two voices. Simple. Thirteen characters and voices (and more again within the stories told) turned out to be quite tricky. How well I succeeded in the end is for the reader to judge of course. Those of you that read Thirteen Chairs: do feel free to let me know.

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Chris Priestely’s Tales of Terror

Chris Priestley is one of my favourite seriously spooky authors.  He specialises in spine-tingling short stories and has published several collections of his Tales of Terror, which are absolutely terrific.  These are definitely stories that you want to read with the lights on!  Chris has also written several novels, including Mister Creecher, The Dead of Winter and Through Dead Eyes (which I reviewed here on the blog).

To find out more about Chris’ books take a look at his website – www.chrispriestleybooks.com

Check out the book trailer for the Tales of Terror series and make sure you grab one of Chris’ seriously spooky books.

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Wonderful collections for little New Zealanders

Random House New Zealand have just released two new collections of stories for young New Zealanders.  Stories for 6 Year Olds and Stories for 7 Year Olds are chock full of short stories by some of our best local authors, and they’ve been specifically chosen for these age groups.

In these two books you’ll find stories by Kate de Goldi, Barbara Else, Margaret Mahy, David Hill, Sandy McKay, along with some talented new authors.  The stories are a mixture of the ordinary and the extraordinary, and about all sorts of things, from pets to monsters, climbing trees to camping.

They’re perfect books for their age groups, with a font size that’s appropriate and appealing stories.  They can be read by the children themselves or read aloud by parents or teachers.  There is something for every reader in these wonderful collections.

 

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Patrick Ness takes us back to New World

If you’re a huge fan of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy like me I’m sure you didn’t want to leave New World behind at the end of Monsters of MenChaos Walking is one of those series that has really stuck with me and I often want to reread it right from the start.  A few years ago Patrick gave his readers a gift when he released his free short story, The New World, about Viola coming to New World.  I loved this story because it gave us a snapshot of Viola’s life before all hell broke loose in The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Walker Books have just re-issued the Chaos Walking Trilogy with very cool new jackets (and they look great beside the originals I have to say).  Not only do they have new covers, they also each contain a new short story, set in New World.  In the new edition of The Ask and the Answer you can read The Wide, Wide Sea, which takes place just before the first Spackle War and stars Mistress Coyle.  It focuses on the relationship between a human and a Spackle in the sea-side settlement of Horizon.  In the new edition of Monsters of Men you can read Snowscape (my favourite of the three), which takes place after the events of the trilogy.

I loved each of these stories!  They’re like the special features on a DVD – you get extra insights into the world of the stories and you get to return to your favourite (or most hated) characters.  Patrick says that he sees the stories as treats, ‘If  you  made  it  all  the  way  through  the  trilogy,  here’s  some  hopefully  fun  rewards.’ Well I certainly feel like Christmas has come early.  If you’re a fan of the series you have to read them.

The really awesome thing is that you don’t even have to buy copies of the new editions to read the stories.  You can read all of them for FREE at www.chaoswalkingstories.com.au, where you can also enter to win signed Chaos Walking goodies.

Don’t forget – enter my competition to win a signed copy of the new edition of The Knife of Never Letting Go or The Ask and the Answer.

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Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt, illustrated by Marjolein Pottie

Mouse has a sword. She wears a suit of armour. She is a knight. She is bold Sir Mouse.

Dragon does not have a sword. She does not wear a suit of armour. She is just Dragon.

Knights fight dragons. But Mouse and Dragon never fight each other. Mouse and Dragon are best friends.

Join Mouse and Dragon as they rescue Prince, outwit Cat, have a fancy dress party and find out all about friendship, knighthood and the true meaning of happy every after.

Sir Mouse to the Rescue is my favourite of new local publisher Book Island’s launch titles.  It’s a collection of five funny tales about an unusual friendship between a mouse (who is also a knight) and a dragon.  The wit and humour of Dirk Nielandt’s stories will appeal just as much (if not more) to adults as children.  The conversations between these two wonderful characters will have you and your children laughing out loud.

“Maybe I can rescue Prince,” says Dragon.
Mouse bursts out laughing.  “Don’t be so silly,” she says.
“You are Dragon, not a knight.  You you ever read books?”
“No,” Dragon admits.
“Exactly,” says Mouse.  “Who rescues the prince in books?”
“Um…” Dragon says.
“It’s always the knight, never the dragon,” says Mouse.

Apart from the conversations between Mouse and Dragon, the thing I like the most about this book is that roles are reversed.  Sir Mouse is a girl, it’s the prince stuck in the tower not the princess, and a knight and a dragon are friends not enemies.  I especially like the last story in which Prince asks Sir Mouse to marry him.  Sir Mouse puts on a dress and considers living happily ever after, but she decides,

“I want to live happily ever after.
But I don’t want to be a Princess.
I wear a suit of armour. I have a sword.
I am a knight. I am bold Sir Mouse.”

Marjolein Pottie’s illustrations, which were created by a combination of collage and paper-cutting technique, are absolutely stunning.  I love the different patterns that Marjolein has used for Dragon’s scales and the paper-cut illustrations are a very effective way of telling the story.  This beautifully produced book is finished off nicely with the patterned end-papers.

Sir Mouse to the Rescue is perfect for reading aloud or for newly independent readers to read by themselves.  The stories are short and funny, and the text is broken up into blocks to make it easier for children to read.  This is the first of a series of stories about Mouse and Dragon so I hope we’ll get to read more soon.  Get a copy of Sir Mouse to the Rescue from www.bookisland.co.nz from 11 November.

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Chronicles of Harris Burdick – 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales

I’ve been reading lots of short stories lately because we’ve been getting some cool collections of short stories for children and young adults in our library.  The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is a collection of short stories written by 14 amazing authors, including Kate DiCamillo, Louis SacharJon Scieszka and Lois Lowry.  The stories are based on the original illustrations from the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, in which there are only illustrations with a title and caption.  I got introduced to this book about 8 years ago when I was at Teacher’s College and have loved it ever since.  There’s a whole mystery to the book and where the illustrations have come from.  Who was Harris Burdick and why did he disappear after dropping off his illustrations?  If you’ve never seen it you should definitely get this from the library to have a go at making up your own stories to go with the pictures.

I love this book!  Not only are there so many great stories by some of the best children’s authors, but the book is beautifully designed too.  There are stories for everyone in this book, from the magical and funny to the strange and unsettling.  There are naughty children, different dimensions, a wizard, floating nuns, aliens, ghosts, and a horrible stepfather who gets his comeuppance.  All of the illustrations are amazing and you could make up all sorts of stories about them.  I liked some of the stories more than others.  Some of them are really strange and others just left me thinking ‘what just happened?’  My favourite story is The Harp by Linda Sue Park, about two sisters who are always bickering and get a spell put on them by a wizard.  Get a copy of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick and discover this strange collection of stories from some of your favourite authors.

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