Odds Are Good: An Oddly Enough and Odder Than Ever Omnibus

Overview

Beloved for his hilarious and unexpectedly moving novels, Bruce Coville is also a master of the short story. These two collections, in one volume for the first time, feature eighteen tales of unusual breadth and emotional depth. This omnibus is a perfect introduction to Bruce Coville's magic for the uninitiated.

Includes an introduction by Jane Yolen.

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Overview

Beloved for his hilarious and unexpectedly moving novels, Bruce Coville is also a master of the short story. These two collections, in one volume for the first time, feature eighteen tales of unusual breadth and emotional depth. This omnibus is a perfect introduction to Bruce Coville's magic for the uninitiated.

Includes an introduction by Jane Yolen.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This anthology of eighteen previously published magical tales features an alphabet of creatures from angels to werewolves. Each short story is both entertaining and meaningful. Many valuable lessons will be learned while reading Coville's short stories, i.e., self-acceptance, trustworthiness, loyalty, and selflessness. In the clever story titled "Am I Blue?" an adolescent, confused about his sexual orientation, receives a visit from his fairy godfather. One of his three wishes is to have every gay person turn blue. Later he learns that the boy who has been gay bashing him is blue. Another short story titled "Biscuits of Glory" is about a courageous boy who investigates odd noises coming from the kitchen. He finds a female ghost feverishly baking biscuits while singing a sad tune. The ghost's curse of returning to her former home to bake biscuits once a week is broken when the boy catches and eats one of her glorious floating biscuits. Odds are favorable that adolescents will take a deeper look at themselves and others after reading this thought-provoking title. 2006, Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, Ages 12 up.
—Mary Jo Edwards
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152057169
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/1/2006
  • Pages: 352
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 6.92 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Coville

BRUCE COVILLE has more than fourteen million books in print, including the bestselling My Teacher Is an Alien and the Magic Shop books. He lives in Syracuse, New York. Visit his website at www.brucecoville.com .

Jane Yolen is a highly acclaimed children's author who has written hundreds of books for adults and children and has won numerous awards. She and her husband divide their time between Massachussetts and Scotland.

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Read an Excerpt

The Box
 
 
O nce there was a boy who had a box.
 
           The boy’s name was Michael, and the box
        was very special because it had been given to him by an angel.
 
        Michael knew it had been an angel because of the huge white wings he wore. So he took very good care of the box, because the angel had asked him to.
 
        And he never, ever opened it.
 
        When Michael’s mother asked him where he had gotten the box, he said, “An angel gave it to me.”
 
        “That’s nice, dear,” she answered, and went back to stirring her cake mix.
 
        Michael carried the box with him wherever he went. He took it to school. He took it out to play. He set it by his place at mealtimes.
 
        After all, he never knew when the angel would come back and ask for it.
 
        The box was very beautiful. It was made of dark wood and carved with strange designs. The carvings were smooth and polished, and they seemed to glow whenever they caught the light. A pair of tiny golden hinges, and a miniature golden latch that Michael never touched, held the cover tight to the body of the box.
 
        Michael loved the way it felt against his fingers.
 
        Sometimes Michael’s friends would tease him about the box.
 
        “Hey, Michael,” they would say. “How come you never come out to play without that box?”
 
        “Because I am taking care of it for an angel,” he would answer. And because this was true, the boys would leave him alone.
 
        At night, before he went to bed, Michael would rub the box with a soft cloth to make it smooth and glossy.
 
        Sometimes when he did this he could hear something moving inside the box.
 
        He wondered how it was that something could stay alive in the box without any food or water.
 
        But he did not open the box. The angel had asked him not to.
 
        One night when he was lying in his bed, Michael heard a voice.
 
        “Give me the box,” it said.
 
        Michael sat up.
 
        “Who are you?” he asked.
 
        “I am the angel,” said the voice. “I have come for my box.”
 
        “You are not my angel,” shouted Michael. He was beginning to grow frightened.
 
        “Your angel has sent me. Give me the box.”
 
        “No. I can only give it to my angel.”
 
        “Give me the box!”
 
        “No!” cried Michael.
 
        There was a roar, and a rumble of thunder. A cold wind came shrieking through his bedroom.
 
        “I must have that box!” sobbed the voice, as though its heart was breaking.
 
        “No! No!” cried Michael, and he clutched the box tightly to his chest.
 
        But the voice was gone.
 
ass=GT style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; mso-line-height-alt: 0pt; mso-pagination: widow-orphan lines-together; tab-stops: .25in 24.0pt"        Soon Michael’s mother came in to comfort him, telling him he must have had a bad dream. After a time he stopped crying and went back to sleep.
 
        But he knew the voice had been no dream.
 
        After that night Michael was twice as careful with the box as he had been before. He grew to love it deeply. It reminded him of his angel.
  
As Michael grew older the box became more of a problem for him.
 
        His teachers began to object to him keeping it constantly at his side or on his desk. One particularly thick and unbending teacher even sent him to the principal. But when Michael told the principal he was taking care of the box for an angel, the principal told Mrs. Jenkins to leave him alone.
 
        When Michael entered junior high he found that the other boys no longer believed him when he told them why he carried the box. He understood that. They had never seen the angel, as he had. Most of the children were so used to the box by now that they ignored it anyway.
 
        But some of the boys began to tease Michael about it.
 
        One day two boys grabbed the box and began a game of keep-away with it, throwing it back and forth above Michael’s head, until one of them dropped it.
 
        It landed with an ugly smack against the concrete.

Michael raced to the box and picked it up. One of the fine corners was smashed flat, and a piece of one of the carvings had broken off.
 
        “I hate you,” he started to scream. But the words choked in his throat, and the hate died within him.
 
        He picked up the box and carried it home. Then he cried for a little while.
 
        The boys were very sorry for what they had done. But they never spoke to Michael after that,
and secretly they hated him, because they had done something so mean to him, and he had not gotten mad.
 
        For seven nights after the box was dropped Michael did not hear any noise inside it when he was cleaning it.
 
        He was terrified.
 
        What if everything was ruined? What could he tell the angel? He couldn’t eat or sleep. He refused to go to school. He simply sat beside the box, loving it and caring for it.
 
        On the eighth day he could hear the movements begin once more, louder and stronger than ever.
 
        He sighed, and slept for eighteen hours.
 
When he entered high school Michael did not go out for sports, because he was not willing to leave the box alone. He certainly could not take it out onto a football field with him.
 
        He began taking art classes instead. He wanted to learn to paint the face of his angel. He tried over and over again, but he could never get the pictures to come out the way he wanted them to.
 
        Everyone else thought they were beautiful.
 
        But they never satisfied Michael.
 
Whenever Michael went out with a girl she would ask him what he had in the box. When he told her he didn’t know, she would not believe him. So then he would tell her the story of how the angel had given him the box. Then the girl would think he was fooling her. Sometimes a girl would try to open the box when he wasn’t looking.
 
        But Michael always knew, and whenever a girl did this, he would never ask her out again.
 
        Finally Michael found a girl who believed him. When he told her that an angel had given him the box, and that he had to take care of it for him, she nodded her head as if this was the most sensible thing she had ever heard.
 
        Michael showed her the pictures he had painted of his angel.
 
        They fell in love, and after a time they were married.
 
        Things were not so hard for Michael now, because he had someone who loved him to share his problems with.
 
        But it was still not easy to care for the box. When he tried to get a job people would ask him why he carried it, and usually they would laugh at him. More than once he was fired from his work because his boss would get sick of seeing the box and not being able to find out what was in it.
 
        Finally Michael found work as a night custodian. He carried the box in a little knapsack on his back, and did his job so well that no one ever questioned him.
 
        One night Michael was driving to work. It was raining, and very slippery. A car turned in front of him. There was an accident, and both Michael and the box flew out of the car.
 
        When Michael woke up he was in the hospital. The first thing he asked for was his box. But it was not there.
 
        Michael jumped out of bed, and it took three nurses and two doctors to wrestle him back into it. They gave him a shot to make him sleep.
 
        That night, when the hospital was quiet, Michael snuck out of bed and got his clothes.
 
        It was a long way to where he had had the accident, and he had to walk the whole distance. He searched for hours under the light of a bright, full moon, until finally he found the box. It was caked with mud, and another of the beautiful corners had been flattened in. But none of the carvings were broken, and when he held it to his ear, he could hear something moving inside.
 
        When the nurse came to check him in the morning, she found Michael sleeping peacefully, with a dirty box beside him on the bed. She reached out to take it, but his hand wrapped around the box and held it in a grip of steel. He did not even wake up.
 
 Michael would have had a hard time paying the hospital bills. But one day a man came to their house and saw some of his paintings. He asked if he could buy one. Other people heard about them, and before long Michael was selling many paintings. He quit his night job, and began to make his living as an artist.
 
        But he was never able to paint a picture of the angel that looked the way it should.
 
One night when Michael was almost thirty he heard the voice again.
 
        “Give me the box!” it cried, in tones so strong and stern that Michael was afraid he would obey them.
 
        But he closed his eyes, and in his mind he saw his angel again, with his face so strong and his eyes so full of love, and he paid no attention to the voice at all.
 
        The next morning Michael went to his easel and began to paint. It was the most beautiful picture he had ever made.
 
        But still it did not satisfy him.
 
        The voice came after Michael seven times that year, but he was never tempted to answer it again.
 
Michael and his wife had two children, and they loved them very much. The children were always curious about the box their father carried, and one day, when Michael was napping, the oldest child tried to open it.
 
        Michael woke and saw what was happening. For the first time in his memory he lost his temper.
 
        He raised his hand to strike his son.
 
        But in the face of his child he suddenly saw the face of the angel he had met only once, so long ago, and the anger died within him.
 
        After that day the children left the box alone.

Oddly Enough copyright © 1994 by Bruce Coville
Odder Than Ever copyright © 1999 by Bruce Coville
Introduction copyright © 2006 by Jane Yolen
 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
 
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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