Posts from the ‘Short Stories’ Category

HOWLING AND HURTING

Blow: A Short Story

Written by K.J. Waters

 

This short story was written as a bridge between the author’s two novels about hurricanes. Its setting takes place in the middle of Hurricane Ivan, a Category 4 hurricane, which took place in Pensacola, Florida, in September 2004. Loosely based on the memories of an actual storm survivor, this fictional account places the reader in a terrifying situation. Rick is barricaded in his home His friend Chip seeks shelter with him.. Rick doesn’t know that Chip is bringing his friend Buck, who is a cop. Why should that bother Rick? He has a deep, dark secret hidden in the house, which could land him in deep trouble if discovered. The reader is given the backstory in flashbacks artfully woven into the narrative. The characters are remarkably well developed. Readers feel the tension build as the hurricane intensifies and Rick’s secret is slowly revealed.

While I haven’t read either of the two novels, this short story does a fine job of standing alone as a well-written thriller. Perfect afternoon read for young adult and adult audiences.

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FLYING HIGH

Grade School Super Hero, etc. etc.

Written by Justin Johnson

 

What is the real title of this book? It promises to be all things to all readers. I would classify it as an introductory chapter book for beginning readers, mostly in the seven to nine age group. The fact that it consists of just twenty pages will turn off most middle grade readers. The plot centers on little Johnny Williams or JW. One day he accidentally discovers that he has the power to jump high over a baseman. His teachers and schoolmates encourage him to do it again. The next time as he tries to jump, Johnny winds up on the roof. A few days later when an asteroid is hurling toward earth, JW decides he must push his powers to the limit and attempt to fly up into outer space in an effort to divert its path and save the planet from disaster. Will Johnny be successful? How does it feel to have superpowers?

The author offers free copies of his other short stories as an added incentive to read this book. Children who enjoy superhero or adventure stories will enjoy this story.

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SLOW BURN

Sparks: A Fantasy Short Story

Written by T. Daniel Sheppeard

 

Interesting and quirky short story about Sebastian, a young boy who is an apprentice magician. Sebastian is a gifted student, but he suffers from a lack of concentration. His tutor Maltheus endeavors to teach him how to light fire. Sebastian repeats the incantation but nothing happens. Maltheus sends him back to his dorm to study Dallben’s Meditations and Ruell’s Liturgy. When they meet a few days later, Matheus uses a different strategy to teach Sebastian. Sebastian becomes too successful with the Flame Hand trick and it leads to new problems. By the end of the tale, Sebastian realizes that the true goal of wizardry is not to master others but to master oneself.

This book is a really short story, less than twenty pages. Fans of magic, fantasy and humor will probably enjoy it. Appropriate for middle school, young adult and adult audiences.

 

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TINY BUT FEARLESS

The Adventures of Geraldine Woolkins

Written by Karin Kaufman

A delightful chapter book consisting of ten stories that revolve around a fearless family of mice facing the dangers and challenges of winter. Geraldine is the protagonist who was born in April, but now in October is facing the end of the gathering season. She and her brother Nigel have much to learn and experience. Readers are introduced to their friends in the forest, Penelope, the sparrow and Cheddar, a white rabbit. The children love to hear their father Nigel read to them stories from the Book of Tales. These adventures teach them about common sense, trust, gratitude, empathy and sharing. As October wanes, the family and friends celebrate Thanksgiving and the joys of Christmas. On the other hand, the children’s curiosity put them in danger of being eaten by wolves and ravens, swept down the river on a log and being destroyed by a forest fire. Charlotte is a sensitive and inquisitive mouse who desires to read, write and explore the world around her. She and her brother share sibling rivalry, but at the same time deeply love and care for one another. Their parents teach them to have faith that Very, Very Big Hands will be there to guide and protect them.

This chapter book is geared toward readers in grades three to six. Some younger children may enjoy individual stories as a read aloud. There are no illustrations; a few simple drawings would add appeal to younger children. I would thoroughly recommend the book as a gentle, sweet read for children who love animals. The many lessons learned and bravery in facing adversity allow for lots of discussion on the topics of developing strong character and interpersonal skills.

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Teen Troubles

The Rise of the Olympians Book One

Written by Belle Ward

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First book in a middle grade short story series. Lilah is about to celebrate her thirteenth birthday. Her father surprises her with her favorite breakfast of pancakes and bacon. As she departs for school with her older brother, Jay, Lilah looks forward to her first class in which she is studying about Ancient Greece. Mr. Fisher is discussing the Olympians. For some reason, Lilah can’t stop thinking about the lesson.

When Lilah gets home she is surprised by the gift of an angel-winged necklace from her dad. But when she prepares for bed, strange things begin to happen. The necklace heats up, her rainbow colored extensions suddenly become attached to her head, and she experiences a strange dream. The next day, Lilah is invited to join a special dream club. She is astonished to learn that the other members are Apollo and Hades. They think she is the goddess who will help them find the Father of the Monsters. A sudden crash, and all must run for their lives…..Will Lilah cast her fate with these strangers? Will she wake up from this nightmare?

This short story is a good length for reluctant readers. The characters are believable and interesting enough. What some readers may not like is that the tale ends in a cliffhanger. Readers will be left disappointed unless they immediately get a hold of Book Two.

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KITCHEN CHIT-CHAT

Stories Around the Kitchen Table: A Collection of Women’s Memoirs

Edited by Anne Randolph

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The editor based this collection on her creation of the kitchen table writers’ concept, which encourages women to find their creative author’s voice. A small group of women gather around a kitchen table and begin writing their thoughts with pen in hand. No need to worry about grammar, spelling or second guessing. Weekly sessions begin and end with the inspiration of a poem. Each author writes about her thoughts and dreams. Following the time allotted for writing, each of the participants listens and shares taking turns to read aloud. At the end of this nearly one hundred page collection of stories, Randolph includes short biographies of each participating author.

Topics are diverse; emotions and writing reflect the natural setting and willingness of each participant to immerse herself in the writing process, and more importantly to lend a willing ear to each other’s work. In “Belly Flops” the reader is treated to a young girl’s first experience diving into a swimming pool. “When I was Ten” propels its readers back in time to a child’s visit to Manhattan during World War II. “Learning to Fly” transports us to an airfield for a first flying lesson. “A Slow Leaving” reflects the emotional roller coaster the writer experiences as her husband is about to leave the house because their divorce has become final.

This book is a good tool to preview many styles of writing and a good conversation starter for a woman’s group on many topics up for discussion on women’s issues in the modern world. Recommended for young adult and adult readers.

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ALONE NO MORE…

Gumbo Goes Downtown

Written by Carol Talley

gumbopicA tale that is charming and sweet, yet focuses on some important issues. The obvious story line is about a guard dog named Gumbo, who lives in a shotgun house on St. Charles Street in New Orleans. He spends most of his time barking at any one who comes near the chain link fence, such as the girl in a polka dot dress and the postman. When the postman fails to close the gate one day, Gumbo seizes the opportunity to see the world. He follows the trolley tracks downtown to New Orleans. Here he meets up with a poodle named Pompon and a champion pure breed named Stella. Gumbo has the time of his life in Jackson Square with clowns, dancers, jugglers, musicians and the like. Soon his friends leave to go home and be pampered by their owners. Gumbo begins to miss his house and owner Gus, whom he never appreciated. Will Gumbo decide to remain free in the big city on his own and fend for himself or return to his former life?

The book description suggests an audience of K-2. While the simple story of Gumbo’s adventure is appropriate for that age group, the larger issues of homelessness and running away from home are better addressed to a middle grade audience. Talley provides a nice guide for parents and teachers to set up a discussion on these issues. Maeno’s illustrations are soft, colorful and appealing, but the text is small and difficult to read on some of the pages. I recommend the book especially for parents and teachers who would like to open up a discussion on homelessness, running away, and poverty. Talley also includes an interesting background section on New Orleans and the points of interest mentioned in the story.

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