M Is for Magic [NOOK Book]

Overview

Stories to delight, enchant, and surprise you.

Bestselling author and master storyteller Neil Gaiman here presents a breathtaking collection of tales that may chill or amuse readers—but always embrace the unexpected:

  • A teenage boy who has trouble talking to girls finds himself at a rather unusual party.
  • A sinister jack-in-the-box haunts the...
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M Is for Magic

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Overview

Stories to delight, enchant, and surprise you.

Bestselling author and master storyteller Neil Gaiman here presents a breathtaking collection of tales that may chill or amuse readers—but always embrace the unexpected:

  • A teenage boy who has trouble talking to girls finds himself at a rather unusual party.
  • A sinister jack-in-the-box haunts the lives of the children who owned it.
  • A boy raised in a graveyard makes a discovery and confronts the much more troubling world of the living.
  • A stray cat fights a nightly battle to protect his adopted family from a terrible evil.

These eleven stories illuminate the real and the fantastic, and will be welcomed with great joy by Neil Gaiman's many fans as well as by readers coming to his work for the first time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Taking both inspiration and naming convention from Ray Bradbury's R Is for Rocketand S Is for Space, Gaiman's first YA anthology is a fine collection of previously published short stories. Although Gaiman's prose skill has improved markedly since the earliest stories included here, one constant is his stellar imagination, not to mention his knack for finding unexpected room for exploration in conventional story motifs. Jill Dumpty, sister of the late Humpty, hires a hard-boiled detective to look into her brother's tragic fall; the 12 months of the year sit around in a circle, telling each other stories about the things they've seen; an elderly woman finds the Holy Grail in a flea market and takes it home because of how nice it will look on her mantelpiece. Collectors will be pleased to note the inclusion of several stories that were previously published in the now-hard-to-find collection Angels & Visitations. Also of note is fan favorite "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," which has been nominated for a Hugo Award for 2007. Though Gaiman is still best known for his groundbreaking Sandmancomic book epic, this volume is an excellent reminder of his considerable talent for short-form prose. Ages 10-up. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Teresa Copeland
A living boy grows up among ghosts in a graveyard and finds it easier than in the living world. An elderly lady finds the Holy Grail and confronts the choices that having such an object presents. Jack Horner seeks to solve Humpty Dumpty's death in Nurseryland. A conman sells a landmark in such a way as to warrant entry to the most exclusive Rogue's Club, and a group of people who will eat anything find the one dish that they should have avoided. This collection assembles a number of master storyteller Gaiman's previously published short stories, including the Hugo-nominated How to Talk to Girls at Parties. The tales vary from scary to funny to melancholy, but they are all beautiful, with just enough story to satisfy and be complete while still leaving room for imagination to wander about and fill in the edges, wondering what happened next or before. Gaiman knows how to drop a reader into a world in one paragraph and keep the pages turning until the end, neither giving too much detail to spoil the pace nor too little for the reader to get a sense of the place. One story, The Witch's Headstone, will be incorporated into Gaiman's next book. Taken all together, they comprise a great selection of stories for younger readers-it gets scary but not too scary or graphic.
KLIATT - Ellen Welty
Short stories are sometimes a hard sell to middle school and high school students, but this collection has something for everyone. Many of the tales have been previously published in other collections. There is a sophisticated take on Humpty Dumpty's death and his sister's insistence that it wasn't an accident; a story about an adopted cat that nightly battles the Devil in order to keep his adoptive family safe; a downright creepy tale of a jack-in-the-box; and the tale of the witch's headstone that will leave readers wishing there was more to the story. There are subtle lessons in the stories—all good stories have lessons—but not every lesson will speak to every reader. Younger readers will like the humor in "The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds," and older readers will appreciate the irony in the story of the Holy Grail in the antique shop. There is a certain wistfulness in the story of the troll bridge and a heartbreaking feeling of inevitability in the story called "October in the Chair." Readers who are fans of Gaiman's Stardust or Coraline won't be disappointed. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
The popular and acclaimed science fiction author (Coraline, Wolves in the Walls) here assembles a collection of reprinted short stories written and published over the past two decades. Each story has some engagement with the fantastic. Fairy tale characters are both suspects and villains in Gaiman's parody of a hard-boiled detective story, "The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds" (was Humpty Dumpty's death an accident, or was he pushed?); rogues in a parallel universe trade stories of their legendary cons in "How to Sell the Ponti Bridge." Gaiman is at his best when the ordinary and the extraordinary bump up against each other in unexpected ways. In "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," what begins by seeming like a light teen story of an awkward boy's attempt to equal his best friend's gift for attracting girls turns macabre: while all girls may seem to boys like aliens recently landed from outer space, the girls at this particular party really are. The standout in the collection is the deadpan "Chivalry," in which staid, elderly Mrs. Whittaker purchases the Holy Grail at a thrift store only to find herself besieged with ardent attentions from Sir Galahad. Science fiction and fantasy fans will find much to delight them in this wealth of finely crafted stories.
Kirkus Reviews
Ten short stories and one poem, some presented here for the first time, allow one of the modern masters of fantasy to strut his stuff, particularly that of the deliciously creepy variety. A man who has put off the troll under the bridge in his youth yields to ennui at last and gives over his life; a sinister Jack-in-the-box plants madness in the minds of children; a living boy is raised in a graveyard by the dead. There's some lighthearted material as well, though. A hardboiled detective tries to solve the murder of Humpty-Dumpty; a master con artist spins the yarn of his greatest swindle; a little old lady very nearly thwarts the quest for the Holy Grail when she buys it in a junk shop. The variety and pacing makes every transition a surprise, though it's clear that many of the stories were not written with a child reader in mind: These tales are a definite step up in sophistication from Coraline (2002), and will repay older readers handsomely. (Short stories. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061972676
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 294,426
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books for readers of all ages, and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award and the Locus Award for Best Novelette for his story "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains." Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Biography

Neil Gaiman thought he wrote comic books. But a newspaper editor, of course, set him straight.

Back when he was riding the diabolical headwinds of his popular series of graphic novels, The Sandman, the author attended a party where he introduced himself as a comic-book writer to a newspaper's literary editor. But when the editor quickly realized who this actually was -- and the glaze melted from his eyes -- he offered Gaiman a correction tinged with astonishment: "My God, man, you don't write comics, you write graphic novels." Relating the story to theLos Angeles Times in 1995, Gaiman said, "I suddenly felt like someone who had been informed that she wasn't a hooker, that in fact she was a lady of the evening."

Gaiman's done much more, of course, than simply write graphic novels, having coauthored, with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, a comic novel about the Apocalypse; adapted into hardcover the BBC miniseries Neverwhere about the dark underworld beneath the streets of London; and, inspired by his young daughter, put a horrifying spin on C.S. Lewis' wardrobe doors for Coraline, a children's book about a passageway into a magical, yet malevolent, land.

But it is The Sandman that is Gaiman's magnum opus.

Though he had told a career counselor in high school that he wanted to pen comic books, he had a career as a freelance journalist before his first graphic novel, Violent Cases, was published in England in 1987. DC Comics discovered him and The Sandman was born. Or reborn, actually. The comic debuted back in 1939 with a regular-Joe crime fighter in the lead. But in Gaiman's hands the tale had a more otherworldly spin, slowing introducing readers to the seven siblings Endless: Dream, Death, Desire, Destiny, Destruction, Despair and Delirium (once Delight). They all have their roles in shaping the fates of man. In fact, when Death was imprisoned for decades, the results were devastating. Richard Nixon reached The White House and Michael Jackson the Billboard charts.

Direction from newspaper editors notwithstanding, to Gaiman, these stories are still comic books. The man who shuttled back and forth between comics and classics in his formative years and can pepper his writing with references to Norse mythology as well as the vaudevillian rock group Queen, never cottoned to such highbrow/lowbrow distinctions. Comparing notes on a yachting excursion with members of the Irish rock band U2, the writer who looks like a rock star and Delirium and the rock stars who gave themselves comic-worthy names such as Bono and The Edge came to a realization: Whether the medium is pop music or comic books, not being taken seriously can be a plus. "It's safer to be in the gutter," he told The Washington Post in 1995.

In 1995, Gaiman brought The Sandman to a close and began spending more time on his nongraphic fiction, including a couple of short-story collections. A few years later he released Stardust, an adult fairy tale that has young Tristan Thorn searching for a fallen star to woo the lovely but cold Victoria Forester. In 2001, he placed an ex-con named Shadow in the middle of a war between the ancient and modern dieties in American Gods. Coming in October 2002 is another departure: an audio recording of Two Plays for Voices, which stars Bebe Neuwirth as a wise queen doing battle with a bloodthirsty child and Brian Dennehy as the Angel of Vengeance investigating the first crime in history in heaven's City of Angels.

Gaiman need not worry about defining his artistic relevance, since so many other seem to do it for him. Stephen King, Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison are among those who have contributed introductions to his works. William Gibson, the man who coined the term "cyberspace," called him a "a writer of rare perception and endless imagination" as well as "an American treasure." (Even though he's, technically, a British treasure transplanted to the American Midwest.) Even Norman Mailer has weighed in: "Along with all else, Sandman is a comic strip for intellectuals, and I say it's about time."

The gushiest praise, however, may come from Frank McConnell, who barely contained himself in the pages of the political and artistic journal Commonweal. Saying Gaiman "may just be the most gifted and important storyteller in English," McConnell crowned Sandman as the most important act of fiction of the day. "And that, not just because of the brilliance and intricacy of its storytelling -- and I know few stories, outside the best of Joyce, Faulkner, and Pynchon, that are more intricate," he wrote in October 1995, " but also because it tells its wonderful and humanizing tale in a medium, comic books, still largely considered demimonde by the tenured zombies of the academic establishment."

"If Sandman is a 'comic,'" he concluded, "then The Magic Flute is a 'musical' and A Midsummer Night's Dream is a skit. Read the damn thing: it's important."

Good To Know

Some fascinating factoids from our interview with Gaiman:

"One of the most enjoyable bits of writing Sandman was getting authors whose work I love to write the introductions for the collected graphic novels -- people like Steve Erickson, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Mikal Gilmore, and Samuel R. Delany."

"I have a big old Addams Family house, with -- in the summertime -- a vegetable garden, and I love growing exotic pumpkins. As a boy in England I used to dream about Ray Bradbury Hallowe'ens, and am thrilled that I get them these days. Unless I'm on the road signing people's books, of course."

"According to my daughters, my most irritating habit is asking for cups of tea."

"I love radio -- and love the availability of things like the Jack Benny radio shows in MP3 format. I'm addicted to BBC radio 7, and keep buying boxed CD sets of old UK radio programs, things like Round the Horne and Hancock's Half Hour. Every now and again I'll write a radio play."

"I love thunderstorms, old houses, and dreams."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 10, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portchester, England
    1. Education:
      Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

M Is for Magic


By Neil Gaiman

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Neil Gaiman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061186455

Chapter One

The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds

I sat in my office, nursing a glass of hooch and idly cleaning my automatic. Outside the rain fell steadily, like it seems to do most of the time in our fair city, whatever the tourist board says. Heck, I didn't care. I'm not on the tourist board. I'm a private dick, and one of the best, although you wouldn't have known it; the office was crumbling, the rent was unpaid, and the hooch was my last.

Things are tough all over.

To cap it all the only client I'd had all week never showed up on the street corner where I'd waited for him. He said it was going to be a big job, but now I'd never know: he kept a prior appointment in the morgue.

So when the dame walked into my office I was sure my luck had changed for the better.

"What are you selling, lady?"

She gave me a look that would have induced heavy breathing in a pumpkin, and which shot my heartbeat up to three figures. She had long blonde hair and a figure that would have made Thomas Aquinas forget his vows. I forgot all mine about never taking cases from dames.

"What would you say to some of the green stuff?" she asked in a husky voice, getting straight to the point.

"Continue, sister." I didn't want her to know how bad I needed the dough, so I held my hand in front of my mouth; it doesn't help if a clientsees you salivate.

She opened her purse and flipped out a photograph. Glossy eight by ten. "Do you recognize that man?"

In my business you know who people are. "Yeah."

"He's dead."

"I know that too, sweetheart. It's old news. It was an accident."

Her gaze went so icy you could have chipped it into cubes and cooled a cocktail with it. "My brother's death was no accident."

I raised an eyebrow—you need a lot of arcane skills in my business—and said, "Your brother, eh?" Funny, she hadn't struck me as the type that had brothers.

"I'm Jill Dumpty."

"So your brother was Humpty Dumpty?"

"And he didn't fall off that wall, Mr. Horner. He was pushed."

Interesting, if true. Dumpty had his finger in most of the crooked pies in town; I could think of five guys who would have preferred to see him dead than alive without trying. Without trying too hard, anyway.

"You seen the cops about this?"

"Nah. The King's Men aren't interested in anything to do with his death. They say they did all they could do in trying to put him together again after the fall."

I leaned back in my chair.

"So what's it to you. Why do you need me?"

"I want you to find the killer, Mr. Horner. I want him brought to justice. I want him to fry like an egg. Oh—and one other little thing," she added lightly. "Before he died Humpty had a small manila envelope full of photographs he was meant to be sending me. Medical photos. I'm a trainee nurse, and I need them to pass my finals."

I inspected my nails, then looked up at her face, taking in a handful of waist and several curves on the way up. She was a looker, although her cute nose was a little on the shiny side. "I'll take the case. Seventy-five a day and two hundred bonus for results."

She smiled; my stomach twisted around once and went into orbit. "You get another two hundred if you get me those photographs. I want to be a nurse real bad." Then she dropped three fifties on my desktop.

I let a devil-may-care grin play across my rugged face. "Say, sister, how about letting me take you out for dinner? I just came into some money."

She gave an involuntary shiver of anticipation and muttered something about having a thing about midgets, so I knew I was onto a good thing. Then she gave me a lopsided smile that would have made Albert Einstein drop a decimal point. "First find my brother's killer, Mr. Horner. And my photographs. Then we can play."

She closed the door behind her. Maybe it was still raining but I didn't notice. I didn't care.

There are parts of town the tourist board doesn't mention. Parts of town where the police travel in threes if they travel at all. In my line of work you get to visit them more than is healthy. Healthy is never.

He was waiting for me outside Luigi's. I slid up behind him, my rubber-soled shoes soundless on the shiny wet sidewalk.

"Hiya, Cock."

He jumped and spun around; I found myself gazing up into the muzzle of a .45. "Oh, Horner." He put the gun away. "Don't call me Cock. I'm Bernie Robin to you, short-stuff, and don't you forget it."

"Cock Robin is good enough for me, Cock. Who killed Humpty Dumpty?"

He was a strange-looking bird, but you can't be choosy in my profession. He was the best underworld lead I had.

"Let's see the color of your money."

I showed him a fifty.

"Hell," he muttered. "It's green. Why can't they make puce or mauve money for a change?" He took it though. "All I know is that the Fat Man had his finger in a lot of pies."

"So?"

"One of those pies had four and twenty blackbirds in it."

"Huh?"

"Do I hafta spell it out for you? I . . . ughh—" He crumpled to the sidewalk, an arrow protruding from his back. Cock Robin wasn't going to be doing any more chirping.

Sergeant O'Grady looked down at the body, then he looked down at me. "Faith and begorrah, to be sure," he said. "If it isn't Little Jack Horner himself."

"I didn't kill Cock Robin, Sarge."

"And I suppose that the call we got down at the station telling us you were going to be rubbing the late Mr. Robin out—here, tonight—was just a hoax?"



Continues...

Excerpted from M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman Copyright © 2007 by Neil Gaiman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents


Introduction     ix
The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds     3
Troll Bridge     24
Don't Ask Jack     44
How to Sell the Ponti Bridge     49
October in the Chair     75
Chivalry     100
The Price     125
How to Talk to Girls at Parties     138
Sunbird     164
The Witch's Headstone     203
Instructions     256
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    A reviewer

    M IS FOR MAGIC is a collection of eleven short stories. This book was geared for elementary/middle school but I thought that I couldn't read many of the stories aloud in my classroom because some of the themes are pretty adult. I liked many of the stories, especially THE WITCH'S HEADSTONE. This was a story about a real boy who was living in a graveyard and being raised by ghosts. He decides to do a very kind thing for a ghost who didn't get a gravestone and the story follows the adventure that goes with that decision. I also enjoyed THE CASE OF FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS. It was a detective story set with nursery rhyme characters. The detective needs to solve the mystery of who killed Humpty Dumpty. It is told with attitude and is very funny. There are also stories that are scary or just plain creepy. The story about the jack-in-the-box just gave me chills. So if you want to read some good, strange stories that only take about an hour to read, check this book out. **Reviewed by: Marta Morrison

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    Dd

    Pockets of this book was not fit for children. But all of the short stories were well-written. There is no question about it. I recomend it to kids 12+.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved It

    Brings back some great childhood memories. Very well written.
    The stories were entertaining.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 24, 2013

    Compilation of peculiar short stories told in the typical ¿Neil

    Compilation of peculiar short stories told in the typical “Neil Gaiman” style, these two are the same as that of Fragile Things. 




    I love it. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013

    **by Jack

    Good stuff just trying to get my name in (not anonymous) hope this works

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    Surprises!

    However short each tale is, they all surprise in that special Neil Gaiman way that never gets old. There's even a chapter from his "Graveyard Book" in here. Definitely a must for anyone that likes unexpected surprises.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Marta Morrison for TeensReadToo.com

    M IS FOR MAGIC is a collection of eleven short stories. This book was geared for elementary/middle school but I thought that I couldn't read many of the stories aloud in my classroom because some of the themes are pretty adult. <BR/><BR/>I liked many of the stories, especially THE WITCH'S HEADSTONE. This was a story about a real boy who was living in a graveyard and being raised by ghosts. He decides to do a very kind thing for a ghost who didn't get a gravestone and the story follows the adventure that goes with that decision. <BR/><BR/>I also enjoyed THE CASE OF FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS. It was a detective story set with nursery rhyme characters. The detective needs to solve the mystery of who killed Humpty Dumpty. It is told with attitude and is very funny. <BR/><BR/>There are also stories that are scary or just plain creepy. The story about the jack-in-the-box just gave me chills. So if you want to read some good, strange stories that only take about an hour to read, check this book out.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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