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Guys Read : Thriller

Ten stories guaranteed to thrill, chill, and have you so far on the edge of your seat that you’re actually on someone else’s, from the following notorious authors: M.T. Anderson, Patrick Carman, Gennifer Choldenko, Matt de la Pena, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Bruce hale, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Anthony Horowitz, Walter Dean Myers, James Patterson; with Illustrations by Brett Helquist. ~jacket copy

Volume 2—Guys Read : Thriller edited (and intro) by Jon Scieszka

Walden Pond Press, 2011. Hardcover, 272 pages. Ages 8-12.

The second installment of Guys Read’s Library is Thriller, a collection of short stories that delivers “the wildest mix of detectives, spooks, cryptids, snakes, pirates, smugglers, a body on the tracks, and one terribly powerful serving of fried pudding” (Jon Scieszka, “Before We Begin…). Yep, sounds like a guys read to me. And it begins with the cover.

Brett Helquist as Illustrator would not only do his part to provide an image for each story, but he has a mystery to share as well. Sciezska begins his Introduction by drawing attention to the cover. “Why is that shady-looking character lurking in the dark alley? What’s he doing with that crowbar? Is that something in his other hand? What is he doing? What has he done?” Sciezska continues to speculate and draw definitions of ‘mystery’ and ‘thriller’ from his contemplation and leaves the story of the cover art up to capable hands, the readers’. “You will have to work out the rest of the story yourself, because that’s all we’ve got from Brett Helquist’s cover. And Brett is suddenly not talking anymore. Smart guy.”

The stories vary in subject matter and in approach, there is even a comic. Three or four at the very least should capture the reader via style/voice. I am guessing the target audience will likely find more. I found humor in every story in Funny Business, but with Thriller I was beginning to think any review I wrote would ultimately surrender to “Jon Scieszka and these authors/illustrators know their audience, they know what they are doing.” It may yet. But as it was I was a bit underwhelmed. And then I found my three or four: (in no order of preference) Pirate by Walter Dean Myers, Thad, the Ghost, and Me by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Nate Macavoy, Monster Hunter by Bruce Hale, and Ghost Vision Glasses by Patrick Carman. Okay, The Old, Dead Nuisance by M.T. Anderson was a good way to start the anthology. And undoubtedly Patrick Carman’s Ghost Vision Glasses was the perfect last story of the collection. While I don’t think one should have to read such a book of stories in order (I like to pick out my favorite authors/titles first), Carman’s story does leave the right level of excitement that makes you think the whole book was a winner.

And Guys Read: Thriller is a winner. This Library of books Scieszka is curating, editing, is a brilliant idea, and it is meeting its promise. These books and stories will entertain the most reluctant middle-grade reader, and said reader will likely find at least one author to pursue. Many of these stories would provide great writing prompts, let alone inspire a reader to write or illustrate their own Thriller. Jon Scieszka and these authors/illustrators know their audience, they know what they are doing. I can’t recommend this Library enough.

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Because it is Halloween-time and I am thinking about Neil Gaiman’s All Hallows’ Read, wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could get ahold of these Thriller stories in bite sizes, each printed in slim volumes of singular stories, to purchase and place in school libraries, English classrooms, and trick-or-treat pillowcases? Well, at least for your favorite young people in your life, Guys Read: Thriller en masse is available in time for the season.

Guys Read: Thriller also makes for a good Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) for the younger (and younger at heart) participants in Carl V./”Stainless Steel Droppings” Challenge.