Next week starts the main event of Witch Week, so I thought I’d lead you gently into it with a couple of quick reviews — appetizers, as it were, for the big meal that’s coming.
Today I give you a book of short stories, part of an “anthology series for tween boys” edited by Jon Scieszka (you might know him from The True Story of the Three Little Pigs!, which is told from the wolf’s point of view). Each volume of the series has a theme: humor, sports, horror, super heroes, etc. The series’ goal is to tempt boys into reading more by giving them something they’ll enjoy. The cover and title of this volume makes pretty clear that its genre is science fiction.
Scieszka delivers on his promise of irresistible readings. The collection begins with a new Percy Jackson story by Rick Riordan, in which Percy and his faun-friend Grover are set a task by Apollo that nearly gets them killed. Other authors in this collection include Shaun Tan, Neal Shusterman, D J MacHale, Rebecca Stead and Shannon Hale, not to mention the great Ray Bradbury, whose “Frost and Fire”, first published in 1946, was new to me.
Eric Nylund’s “The Warlords of Recess” was one of several stand-out tales; in this, Josh and Tony, two nerdy 11-year-old boys, save their school and the entire world from an alien invasion, all because the invaders are sticklers for rules. Another stand-out, a short-short by Tom Angleberger, “The Rise of the Roboshoes™”, gives us the brief history of a shoe rebellion.
And then there’s Bradbury’s “Frost and Fire”, about escaping a world that burns during the day and freezes at night. It is only at the hour around sunrise and sunset that the inhabitants can leave their protective caves to scrounge for food and water. The effects of radiation, they live concentrated lives that last just 8 days, maturing from birth to adolescence before they’re two days old. It’s a world full of horrors, with wars and sudden deaths. How Sim — who longs for more than his allotted 8 days — manages to escape and to convince a few hundred others to risk their all-too brief lives and join him is the substance of the story. Fans of Bradbury will recognize familiar themes: even in the most hellish conditions, hope and courage are human qualities that can’t be destroyed.