Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thirty-Second Scares! Half-Minute Horrors, ed. by Susan Rich

"The Chicken and the Egg"

"I was first," said Egg.

"I was first," said Chicken.

"I was," said Egg.

"I was," said Chicken.

"I was."

"I was."

"Okay, said Chicken. "You win," and pecked Egg. Seven times. From seven holes, Egg bled yellow into the barnyard dust. Until all of Egg was out instead of in.

Chicken grinned. "But guess who's LAST?"

"Less is more," says one reviewer, and he's right. Susan Rich, editor of Lemony Snicket's best-selling A Series of Unfortunate Events, has brought together a stable of thoroughbred authors--Newbery winners Neal Gaiman, Avi, Jerry Spinelli, and Jack Gantos, Caldecott winners Brian Selznick, Chris Raschka and Lane Smith, and literary lights of all stripes such as Margaret Atwood, Kenneth Opel, M.E. Kerr, R. L Stine, even Joyce Carol Oates, and of course, Mr. Snicket--in an anthology of short, elegant horror stories perfect for campfires, sleepovers, Halloween parties, and any time the reader has a minute or less for a thrilling read. Here's a sample from Atwood, one which is complete in itself but which suggests many other spooky tales (e.g., "The Monkey's Paw," or "The Golden Arm") for further reading in the upcoming scary season:

"The Creeping Hand "

The hand crept up the cellar stairs. It was shriveled and dirty, and its fingernails were long.

It scuttled along the dark hallway. At the closed door it sniffed with its fingertips, then jumped up like a giant spider, grabbed the doorknob, and turned.

Inside the room it found a sock. Then a shoe. And then--another hand, hanging down from the bed. A young hand, a hand that it could kidnap and take away down to the cellar.

But this hand was attached to an arm.

Something could be done about that.

Half-Minute Horrors(Harper/Collins, 2009) is scary enough for the most sophisticated 'tweener reader, short enough for the most print-wary reader, and just right for those older kids who have already read the classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series and want a book "just like that one." This slim anthology is a must-have for libraries, English teachers, and just plain scary story devotees of all ages.

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