A Foot in the Grave

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More About This Book

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Here is a collection of stories that is as shimmering with mystery as the delicate paintings that accompany it. Veteran author Aiken ( The Wolves of Willoughby Chase ; The Shadow Guests ) pulls no punches--these eight tales are unmistakably scary, with no recourse to false happy endings. Though they are all set in the present, each possesses the austere logic of fairy tales: good and evil characters inevitably get what's coming to them. Another pleasing common trait is that a few wicked details are always left to the imagination: in ``Light Work,'' readers will never be quite sure how sinister Uncle Avvie came to enslave enough dead, withered hands to fill a suitcase. In ``Cold Harbour,'' a creepy, indistinct phantasm known in whispers as ``la larva'' takes its revenge on a greedy history teacher who stoops to a bit of grave-robbing. In comparison, ``Beezlebub's Baby,'' the account of crabby Aunt Ada's adoption of a ghostly infant, seems almost cozy. Aiken's language is as crisp and evocative as ever, and her imaginative storytelling manages to be playful while alluding to strange, powerful magic. Pienkowski's haunting illustrations emit a suitably eerie glow. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-- If readers are to believe the publisher's blurb, A Foot in the Grave began with a ``haunting'' series of paintings by Pienkowski, who then invited Aiken to conjure up stories to illustrate--uh, accompany them. This may sound like bad news to those who believe that story begins with the word, not the image. Aiken, however, is a seasoned pro who has worked with Pienkowski before and manages to bring the feat off, although just barely in the case of the two badly contrived and predictable efforts that open the book. The stories thereafter grow progressively better, however, and conclude with the truly haunting and beautifully told ``Amberland.'' Aiken is helped along the way by the fact that the artwork is more moodily impressionistic than rigidly naturalistic, leaving ample room for her imagination to roam. The results are sometimes surprising--when, for example, she creates the mordantly humorous title story to accompany a somber illustration--but even when they are more consistent with the pictures' moods, the selections demonstrate the author's easy mastery of her magical art. --Michael Cart, formerly at Beverly Hills Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140361117
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/1994
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.27 (d)

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