M is for Magic
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Teddy Kristiansen
Publication Date: April 2008
Lexile Level: 880L
M is for Magic is a collection of short stories from Neil Gaiman. The stories are generally considered to be more child-friendly than many of his works, and most of the pieces had been previously published in other works.
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite fantasy authors, and I especially love his short fiction. You never quite know what you’re going to get with Gaiman–he runs the gamut of humor to sci fi to fantasy and occasionally even touches on horror.
There’s a bit less variance in this collection than some of his others, but as it is shorter and generally meant to be for a younger audience, that can be forgiven. That said, Gaiman doesn’t talk down to his audience, no matter their age. In this, he reminds me of Roald Dahl–seeming to share the mindset that children can handle a great number of things in their stories. However, Dahl felt that children need the assurance of a happy ending, whereas Gaiman is often ambiguous than comforting.
The collection has an overall theme of faerie tales. “The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds” is a detective noir piece set in a world of such characters. The mix of language from the two genres is incredibly entertaining, and it makes me wish Gaiman would write more detective stories.
“Troll Bridge” gives a twist to a classic villain, and I admit, I’m a sucker for such tales. “Don’t Ask Jack” stems from childhood fear, playing on the element of children knowing something that adults do not.
“How to Sell the Ponti Bridge” is a fun story about the ultimate twist to a classic con. “October in the Chair” presents the months of the year in a way you’ve never seen before–and gives you a hint at the stories they tell. “Chivalry” is about an old lady finding the Holy Grail, and what comes after.
“The Price” is an unsettling tale that illustrates why it’s good to be kind to animals. “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” has the hints of a cautionary tale against youthful indiscretion. “Sunbird” is an…odd story, about a group of people searching for new culinary adventures.
“The Witch’s Headstone” is actually an excerpt from The Graveyard Book, which was published after this collection. It is a tale of a boy who lives in a graveyard, and the lengths he goes to to try and help a ghostly friend. Finally, there is “Instructions,” a poem that details how to behave if you find yourself in a faerie tale.
These are short descriptions, but then, the stories themselves are fairly short. It is difficult to summarize them without giving anything away.
Final Thoughts: This is not my favorite collection of Gaiman’s (that honor goes to Fragile Things) but it is a good one, and worth the read. It is classified by my library as a Young Adult book, so you may not find it with the majority of his works. It is well worth the read, especially if you’re a fan of Jane Yolen or faerie tales in general.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Trigger Warnings: None