M Is for Magic

M Is for Magic


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Master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a breathtaking collection of tales for younger readers that may chill or amuse, but that always embrace the unexpected:

  • Humpty Dumpty's sister hires a private detective to investigate her brother's death.
  • A teenage boy who has trouble talking to girls finds himself at a rather unusual party.
  • A boy raised in a graveyard makes a discovery, and confronts the much more troubling world of the living.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061186479
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/29/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 260
Sales rank: 184,486
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Norse Mythology, Neverwhere, and The Graveyard Book. Among his numerous literary awards are the Newbery and Carnegie medals, and the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Will Eisner awards. Originally from England, he now lives in America.


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

Read an Excerpt

M Is for Magic

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 client sees 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 oldnews. 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?"

M Is for Magic. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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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M Is for Magic 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 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+.
ohioyalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great stories by the master storyteller Gaiman. Some are deep enough that they will require somewhat sophisticated readers to grasp.
tsisler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the introduction, Neil Gaiman states that he's always enjoyed short stories, partly because if he didn't like one, he knew that something else would be along shortly. I find that phrase particularly fitting with this collection. I feel that some of the stories were brilliantly crafted, whereas other ones I could have done without. However, on the whole, I enjoyed this collection. And, as they are short stories, I find myself wanting to listen to my favorites again, like a beloved movie. I particularly enjoyed "The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds," "How to Sell the Ponti Bridge," and "The Witch's Headstone." Gaiman has a great imagination which crafts some truly unique and intriguing situations. As I started listening to this book in October, I also appreciated its Halloween-esque qualities.
cassiusclay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
personal response: I enjoyed about half of the stories in this collection. From what I understand many of these have been printed elsewhere, but I hadn't read any previous to reading this. A few of the stories, like How to talk to girls at parties, didn't hold my attention enough and I found them to be a dread to get through. Others though were quite enjoyable, such as The case of the Four and Twenty Black birds and Chivalry. A great story is also October in the Chair, attributing human characteristics to each of the months, and creating a cast of characters as diverse as the weather within them.Teen readersCurricular Connections: This would be a great book for a literature class. Gaiman has a very unique writing style that could be compared with others, and the stories themselves offer great opportunities for discussion
wyostitcher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read the critiques of the book and found others did not like it because of the enduring theme of death throughout the book. The themes really are not intended for younger children even though the book is marketed for children as young as ten-years-old. I too was uncomfortable with some of the themes of the stories and was ready for them to be over. It would require a more mature reader to read and understand the underlying themes. I admit the first story about Humpty Dumpty was easy to follow until the end when the murderer surprised me. There is some foul language but there were specific references to body parts and requires a mature reader. The magic that appears include prediction leading to death, changing places, and spirits helping spirits. These stories require a higher level of thinking in order for the reader to understand the author¿s intent.
coralsiren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this collection of short stories. Each one of them has something unique and they're all quite different from one another. A very entertaining read, I just wish it were longer.
katekf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The short stories in this small collection range from the almost scary to funny interpretations of classic nursery rhymes so that most children will find something they enjoy within it. None of the stories are terribly violent but some of them like the one about the troll under the bridge have a sad, darkness to them which would make them more appropriate for a more mature reader. The style of writing and vocabulary makes this book accessible to a middle school reader but due due to some of the themes, care should be taken in who its recommended to. A child who is thinking about doing their own writing would find wonderful inspiration here as Gaiman retells folk tales through various methods, which could act as suggestions for a writer.
susiesharp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great book of short stories from Neil Gaiman.The first story The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds was my favorite because of the Noir feel to it.My second favorite would have to be The Price because the hero is a cat!But really I enjoyed every story in it.Highly recommend!
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me as a good introduction to Neil Gaiman. It's a collection of short stories, of what I call "light fantasy" (lots of fantasy elements, but not building entirely new worlds). I enjoyed about half of them. I really liked "The Witch's Headstone", which I discovered is part of a larger work, "The Graveyard Book". I'll be getting my hands on "The Graveyard Book" soon.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My husband and I listened to this as an audio book. The audio book was read by Neil Gaiman himself.As always the stories are wonderfully crafted and Gaiman is able to create worlds that each of the short stories allows you a quick glimpse of. I have always had a bit of a problem with short stories. Mainly my issue is that if the short story is good it usually leaves you wanting more. I am always a bit frustrated with good short stories because they seen to leave me unsatisfied. That being said I love all of Gaiman's works.I was a bit disappointed though that this is not a new collection of short stories but a compilation of previous short stories that is meant to be appropriate for children. Some of the stories I had read previously in Neil Gaiman's "Smoke and Mirrors". I have not yet read "Fragile Things" but I have heard that the remainder of the stories are from that collection.Also the reading of the stories was slightly disappointing. We were listening to this in the car and some parts of the stories, especially the troll bridge one, were whispered so softly by Gaiman that even with the radio cranked to full volume we couldn't hear what he was saying.This book is quality Gaiman work and a great collection to buy for a young adult. If you own "Smoke and Mirrors" and "Fragile Things" and don't have a need for a more young adult focused book I would skip this book because you probably already own most of the stories. Still the stories are great.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: M is for Magic is a collection of Neil Gaiman's short stories that are selected to appeal to young people. (The name is a riff on Ray Bradbury's similar YA-themed collections, S is for Space and R is for Rocket.) They run a gamut of genres, from noir-ish mystery to ghost story to creepy horror to tall tale to science fiction to fairy tale. Review: All of these stories had been published in one form or another before this collection appeared, and many of them have been published in other places since. It was my bad luck that I didn't look too closely at the table of contents before I bought this book, and as a result, I was already familiar with almost half of the stories. I'd read "October in the Chair", "How to Talk to Girls at Parties", and "Sunbird" in Fragile Things, the poem "Instructions" in both Fragile Things *and* the anthology A Wolf at the Door, and of course "The Witch's Headstone" became a chapter in The Graveyard Book. And, while I don't mind revisiting short stories as a general rule, Gaiman and his editors managed to pick out some of my least-favorite stories from Fragile Things, and in general I was just hoping for more new material than I actually got. Of the stories that *were* new to me, I mostly enjoyed them, although it was still somewhat of a mixed bag. The story that starts the collection, "The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds" felt like a less-funny version of Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy (although to be fair, "Blackbirds" does predate Fforde's book by about twenty years), plus hard-boiled detective noir has never really been my genre of choice, even when it's applied to children's stories (with the exception of Eoin Colfer's Half-Moon Investigations, which I really enjoyed). "Troll Bridge" was an interesting blend of spooky and melancholy, if somewhat predictable; "Don't Ask Jack" was certainly creepy, with the potential to be nightmare-inducingly scary, but it was too short to really reach it; and "How to Sell the Ponti Bridge" was a clever if not particularly memorable little con story dressed up in the cloth of fantasy. My two favorites amongst the new-to-me stories were "The Price", which was surprisingly dark tale of the Devil; and "Chivalry", which was a wry and charming take on a bit of Arthuriana. (As a side note, all of these except "Blackbirds" are also included in Gaiman's collection Smoke and Mirrors, which I have not read.) 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: This collection is probably great for its intended purpose: to provide a bunch of Gaiman's short stories that are appropriate for mid-grade/YA readers, readers who like horror stories or who have read Coraline but who aren't quite ready for some of the more adult parts of Gaiman's adult fiction. For grown-up readers, however, I think this book can safely be skipped by all but the serious Gaiman completists; if you're looking for short stories, I'd go with Fragile Things or Smoke and Mirrors instead.
wiremonkey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've decided that I want to be Neil Gaiman when I grow up.There.End of review.Just kidding! God, I crack myself up... M is for Magic is a collection of Gaiman's short stories packaged for children. At first, some of his choices surprised me (eg. the one about the troll where the protagonist grows up and ends up cheating on his wife), but I respect his choices and am the last person to think coddling our children by not letting them read about A-holes is acceptable, so I was soon on board. (Oh and the guy wasn't really an a-hole, although he did become a troll in the end. He was very sad about his divorce...)Critique:Once again, another rave fest. I loved his introduction to children, telling them they need not like every story in the book. I loved the story about the elderly woman who finds the holy grail in the St. Vincent de Paul and puts it on her mantlepiece. When Galahad comes to fetch it, she drives a hard bargain, fixes him sandwiches and tea , and sends him on his way. The story that started the The Graveyard book is in here, as well as an awesomely hilarious take on a coming of age story about a boy who finally learns to talk to girls at a party and realises too late that the girls are well, not exactly girls... To conclude, I repeat. I want to be Neil Gaiman when I grow up.
MaryWJ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
all the Gamin books are good; the only flaw here is that the first story is decidedly the best, so the rest kind of feel like a letdown. But, worth reading!
alwright1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There were only two stories in this book that I hadn't read in the author's other short story collections. (I guess I should've looked at the table of contents before buying it.) Still, I enjoyed rereading some of my favorite Neil Gaiman stories.It's a little unusual for a book aimed at young readers because in many of the stories, the protagonists aren't children or young adults, but to say that young people wouldn't understand or enjoy the stories would be selling young readers short.As always, I loved exploring the worlds that spring from Gaiman's stories.
Fabulist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
same stuff repackaged, but I still like it.
cissa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good selection of stories. VERY big print, which makes it look like more book than it is.
tapestry100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
M is for Magic is a delightfully creepy collection of short stories from Neil Gaiman. These stories are typical Neil Gaiman, and I find that is a phrase that I frequently use about his work, but that's the best way to put it: typical Neil Gaiman. He has a way of writing something that is so fantastical in such a matter-of-fact way that if you were to encounter one of these stories in the real world, you'd feel like it was an everyday occurance, yet special all the same.The stories are written for a younger audience, so they aren't quite as creepy as they could be, but that isn't saying that these stories aren't creepy and a little dark in their own right. Some of the stories that stuck out the most for me: The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a perfect example of Mother Goose meets crime pulp fiction; Don't Ask Jack is a little disturbing in it's vagueness and the secrets the Jack in the Box holds; Sunbird tells the tale of the Epicurian Club and their desire to expand their appetites to the extreme; and The Witch's Headstone was later incorporated into The Graveyard Book. The accompanying illustrations by Teddy Kristiansen are dark and creepy, so they fit in with the rest of the stories perfectly.I enjoyed M is for Magic, but I'm thinking I should have maybe spaced the stories out a little more instead of reading them all at one time. Once finished, I was left wanting a little more, and I think that's because they are short stories, and I really wanted a little more substance from my latest Gaiman selection. Maybe it's time to move onto one of his novels for an 'older' audience, or maybe revisit The Graveyard Book; don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed these stories. Maybe as a bit of advice to other readers, space them out. You'll be able to savour them that much more.
HippieLunatic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These are the types of stories that make me want to get back into writing on a regular basis. They are fresh and full, and have such a wide range of imagination that they make me remember what it is to create a world that can easily be traveled to and from in the course of 15 minutes.While some of the stories are dark, a mature tween should have no difficulty in dealing with the themes and the questions that are posed by these stories. "October in the Chair" and "Troll Bridge" were my personal favorites. A personification of the months and what their stories would be hit squarely on my feelings, and an interesting twist on the story of the troll under a bridge made my heart cry.
rahv7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of short stories suitable for children of age 10 or older. This is a great selection, i don't think there is a story in here, that is not good. The only negative point is that only three of the stories in here are not already contained in Neils other two short story collections (The three stories are "The Case Of The Four And Twenty Blackbirds" (1984), "How To Sell The Ponti Bridge" (1985) and "The Witch's Headstone" (2007)). Especially the new story (which will be part of the forthcoming "Graveyard Book") is in my opinion absolutely amazing and makes waiting for the new book even harder.
mkhall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another solid collection of Gaiman's short fiction (and a poem), there are several repeats here from other sources. Then again, that's the nature of collections, isn't it? This set is geared more toward the young adult category, and is precisely the sort of thing I would have loved when I was 10. The standouts include the much-lauded "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," the clever and funny "Chivalry," and the Bradbury-esque "October in the Chair."
TheoClarke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful short stories filled with warmth and wit as Gaiman plays with a variety of traditional forms and genres. Adults who dismiss this as fiction for children and teens will be missing an enriching read. The horror stories are not frightening for younger readers but some stories reflect adolescent interest in sex and may not be suitable for some parents.
thioviolight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've previously read most of the stories in this collection, but they delighted me all the same the second (third, fourth, nth?) time around. The ones new to me are gems as bright as the others. Some of my favorite Gaiman shorts are contained here: Chivalry, The Price, Don't Ask Jack, Instructions. All in all, a truly magical collection!
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