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Strange Happenings: Five Tales of Transformation    by Avi order for
Strange Happenings
by Avi
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Avi explores the fantasy theme of transformation in five completely different tales in his new collection for middle readers, Strange Happenings. Each story offers a lesson that the protagonists can only learn through various forms of transformation. Not only does each offering have a different take on transformation, each also has its own style.

The first, Bored Tom, is typical fantasy involving magic and cats. Bored with always being told what to do, Tom wishes to switch places with his cat who does nothing but sleep all day. The transformation takes place through a bit of cat magic, and a surprising twist at the end teaches Tom a little about the way of the world. Next is a wonderful old-fashioned fairytale, Babette the Beautiful. Queen Isabelle is so obsessed with beauty that she wishes for a flawless daughter; however, what she gets is not quite what she expects. Curious is science fiction with a nostalgic feel. A young boy fascinated with the local minor league baseball mascot eventually learns the truth behind the saying, 'Curiosity killed the cat.'

Fourth (my personal favorite) is The Shoemaker and Old Scratch, a delightful tale that would make a perfect oral story. A shoemaker makes a deal with the Devil, and in typical folk-tale style, he has three chances to make good on his promise or the Devil will get his soul. Last is a curious tale simply called Simon. Simon is a spoiled brat who wants to be noticed by everyone. To achieve this goal, he becomes a notorious hunter of birds for their feathers. In order to teach Simon a lesson, a rare Golden Bird transforms him into half-man/half-bird and Simon gets more attention that he can handle.

While the stories are unique, Avi's consistent flowing style makes each one a quick yet satisfying read. Avi gets his messages across in a way that middle readers will find intriguing, not preachy. Each story makes the reader want to pause and think before continuing on to the next one. Strange Happenings makes for great reading either alone or out loud.

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