The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine

The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine

4.8 8
by Diane Stanley

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Strange things have been happening at Franny's new school.

First it was the Jelly Worm Fad.

Then came the exploding headaches that kept students home for days.

When the latest creepy phenomenon lands her sister in the hospital, Franny and her new friend, Beamer, try to get to the bottom of it.

Following a hunch, Franny discovers the one

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Strange things have been happening at Franny's new school.

First it was the Jelly Worm Fad.

Then came the exploding headaches that kept students home for days.

When the latest creepy phenomenon lands her sister in the hospital, Franny and her new friend, Beamer, try to get to the bottom of it.

Following a hunch, Franny discovers the one link that all these kids share—they're rabid fans of I. M. Fine, author of the mega-popular Chillers series.

But I. M. Fine is nowhere to be found ... or is he)

Admirers of Diane Stanley's celebrated nonfiction picture-book biographies and her critically acclaimed novel, A Time Apart, are in for a treat as she shows her playful side in this quirky, fast-paced, and humorous mystery.

Editorial Reviews

Books Bulletin of the Center for Children's
...this gently satiric mystery will give goosebumps to readers who appreciate genre fiction and thoughtful comedy.
Publishers Weekly
Stanley reveals yet another dimension of her talents in her second novel (after A Time Apart), here serving up a witty story that manages to be both light and satisfying. Fifth-grade narrator Franny Sharp, having just entered yet another new school, cements her friendship with the independent Beamer as the two notice how many of the other kids in the cafeteria are playing, riotously and continuously, with Jelly Worm candies. Franny sees the connection between the sudden fad and writer I.M. Fine's latest Chillers book, The Worm Turns (in it the Jelly Worms come to life and destroy Cleveland). The next Chillers release, about a microwave that causes excruciating headaches, coincides with the outbreak of a virus characterized by... headaches. As Franny and Beamer investigate, Stanley cheerfully sends up horror series fiction, unfolds a mystery involving orphan twins separated in childhood and repeatedly testifies to the pleasures of reading classics and fluff. She creates depth with rich but offhand characterizations of family life (Franny's younger twins are named Zo and J.D., a fact delivered without jokiness) and by introducing tough subject matter (the painful effects of McCarthyism play a significant role). Superior entertainment, this work should engage both ambitious readers and diehard fans of the genre it satirizes. Ages 9-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this smartly plotted mystery, two middle-school kids investigate the strange effect of the "Chillers" horror series on their classmates. Franny, the new kid in town, is convinced that the books are responsible for the headache and seizure epidemics in Park Place Intermediate School. She convinces her new friend, Beamer, to help her figure out how to find the author, I. M. Fine. The stakes rise sharply when the next "Chillers" book causes potentially fatal reactions among young readers—but Franny and Beamer soon find that I. M. Fine's ultimate goal is more horrifying than anything they could imagine. Stanley puts the kids through a lot, but her characters are so resourceful that it's easy to believe every twist and turn of the story line. Every character in the book is well-drawn, even those who appear only briefly, and Stanley has a fine touch with dialogue. If this book isn't nominated for an Edgar Award, that would be the biggest mystery of all. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 9 to 13. Reviewer: Donna Freedman
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Stanley explores the power of the written word in this lively suspense story. Franny and her family have just relocated to Baltimore, the latest in a long series of moves. Almost immediately, the fifth grader notices that practically everyone in her new school is crazy about Jelly Worms candy, made popular by the latest title in the "Chillers" series of horror novels that is making the rounds. It's an innocent enough fad, but then events take an insidious turn. First, a virus seemingly strikes only those who have read the next book in the series. Then, Sinister Serpent Surprise is published and an epidemic of snakelike behavior sweeps through schools across America. Franny is convinced that, somehow, the books induced these symptoms and determines to track down the reclusive author. Using reference material at the local library and the Internet, she and her friend Beamer find Ida May Fine. They discover that, indeed, Ida is using her books to avenge her father's death many years ago, and that her next book will be the ultimate weapon. Stanley's writing captures the flavor of horror novels, and at the same time brings in themes ranging from the House Un-American Activities Committee to the popularity of horror series and the effect of frequent relocation on children. This book will be enjoyed by fans of R. L. Stine and also by those who love a good mystery.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A light-heartedly charming mystery for kids who will read and still enjoy a story with an uncomplicated view of the world. Franny's family moves all the time and her style is to make friends by taking a book to school to see who responds. Right away she meets Beamer and by being observant, they begin to puzzle out a mystery connected to the "Chiller" series of books written by I. M. Fine. Each new book in the series seems to have a different disturbing effect on its readers. When attempting to do some research on the author, Beamer and Franny find even stalwart "Something About the Author "lets them down. However, following a slim clue given in the first book Fine wrote, the two manage to track down the author and the mystery. The rabid reactions of Fine's fans to new titles and the mindless following of the crowd will draw appreciative chuckles from kids who may recognize if not themselves, then their friends. As the mystery unfolds, readers will sometimes be ahead of these detectives rooting for them to figure out some of the obvious aspects. Some pieces of the plot seem overly fortuitous, but all make sense within the framework given. Book aficionados will enjoy the realistic details of the search along with laughing over the exaggerated fantasy aspects of the plot. Unpretentiously fun. "(Fiction. 9-12)"
ALA Bookist
“…kids who have spent time with Goosebumps will enjoy this sly takeoff of a phenomenon run amok.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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File size:
712 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A few years ago, I made up a game to play with the packing boxes. It was called Find the Treasure. The twins and I would pick something familiar -- like the eggbeater, say, or the candlesticks'and that would be the treasure. Then while Mom and Dad were unpacking things and putting them away, we would start madly opening boxes, trying to find it.

Whoever found the treasure first got to pick the coolest bedroom in the new house. Of course, since Mom and Dad were under the impression that we were actually helping them unpack, they expected us to do things like take the dishes into the kitchen -- not just pile them on the floor and move on to the next box. This provided an added challenge.

The last time we moved, the idea just popped into my head that it would be a lot more exciting if, instead of a treasure, it was a bomb -- and if we didn't find it in time, the whole house would blow up! We got so frenzied trying to save the family from annihilation that we broke a couple of things and our parents got really annoyed.

After that, we quit playing the game and just helped unpack like normal kids (normal kids, that is, who move a lot).

Still, the idea of a time bomb hidden among the packing boxes, with their innocent labels (kitchen, bed linens, toys), haunted me.

Later, after everything that happened, I remembered the game and wondered what had put the idea into my head, and why it had stayed with me so stubbornly. It was almost as if I somehow knew, way back then, what was going to happen.

Now, I know this sounds really mystical and off-the-wall, and I apologize about that. And, of course, if you want to be absolutelyliteral about it, the whole I. M. Fine thing wasn't about bombs at all. But once you've read this story, I think you'll understand. It was just a different kind of time bomb in a different kind of package. But it was every bit as dangerous as the real thing. And just like in the game, time was running out.

Well, you'll see.

The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine. Copyright © by Diane Stanley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Diane Stanley is the author and illustrator of beloved books for young readers, including The Silver Bowl, which received three starred reviews, was named a best book of the year by Kirkus Reviews and Book Links Lasting Connections, and was an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Cup and the Crown; Saving Sky, winner of the Arab American Museum's Arab American Book Award and a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year; Bella at Midnight, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice; The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy; The Mysterious Matter of I. M. Fine; and A Time Apart. Well known as the author and illustrator of award-winning picture-book biographies, she is the recipient of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children and the Washington Post-Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award for her body of work.

Ms. Stanley has also written and illustrated numerous picture books, including three creatively reimagined fairy tales: The Giant and the Beanstalk, Goldie and the Three Bears, and Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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