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Curses, Inc. and Other Stories    by Vivian Vande Velde order for
Curses, Inc. and Other Stories
by Vivian Vande Velde
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Vivan Vande Velde's latest collection, Curses, Inc. and Other Stories, has come out just in time for Halloween. While not one of these yarns actually takes place on All Hallows' Eve, these witchy tales of long ago and far away (and just the other day and close to home) will send a shiver up your spine (and put a smile on your face). Ten tales are unified by the theme of witches. While all are masterfully written and very enjoyable, some of the stand outs for me were the title story, Past Sunset, Boy Witch, and The Witch's Son.

Curses, Inc. is a modern-day tale of greed and revenge that revolves around an eighth grade dance. Bill is too cheap to take Denise to the dance after inviting her. She makes a big scene about it at school, which embarrasses him more than her. In an effort to get back at her, Bill starts buying an elaborate series of hexes from a mysterious website, never thinking of the consequences. Past Sunset is a truly scary ghost story. The residents of a small French village all know to stay indoors after sunset to avoid gazing into the eyes of the ghostly lady in white. One night, though, one brave boy must venture out to help an elderly neighbor and comes face to face with the ghost.

Boy Witch has to be the funniest story in the collection. In it, a young boy is left alone to mind the cottage while his parents go off on some errand. A distraught girl stops by and the boy decides to get out his mother's spell books to help her ... with disastrous results. The last tale in the book, The Witch's Son, is a little deeper than most of the other stories in its hard look at a moral dilemma. After her son Hugh is shot during the Revolution, Abigail attempts to bring him back, finally succeeding after fourteen years. Unfortunately, the only way to keep his life is to destroy the man who killed him, something that Hugh does not think he can do.

Of everything I have read by Vivian Vande Velde, Curses, Inc. and Other Stories is the best so far. Every one of these stories has a solid plot line and fuller characters than found in some short fiction. The themes in some of the stories rival those of many literary fiction works, but Vande Velde presents them in a way that teen readers will enjoy so that they can easily glean the true meaning. Even adults will find great messages and entertainment in these ten tales. Curses, Inc. and Other Stories is the perfect read for a chilly October night, or any other time you are looking for a little scare accompanied by a good laugh.

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