M Is for Magic

M Is for Magic

3.9 37
by Neil Gaiman

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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

…  See more details below


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.

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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HarperCollins Publishers
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Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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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."


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


"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?"


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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Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, and is the recipient of numerous literary honors. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Brief Biography

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

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M Is for Magic 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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+.
KatrinaO More than 1 year ago
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. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good stuff just trying to get my name in (not anonymous) hope this works
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