<b>Avi's magical blend</b>Strange things indeed happen in Avi's <b>Strange Happenings</b>, a collection of five short stories, all about odd events and magical changes. Curious is my favorite story of the bunch, reminding me of some of the Ray Bradbury stories I loved as a teenager. Twelve-year-old Jeff Marley, of Rolerton, Wisconsin, is so curious about everything that he often annoys his teachers and friends. One summer he becomes intrigued by the mascot at his town's minor league ballpark, a character known as the Alien. Jeff hangs out at the field, trying to figure out who wears the Alien costume. Soon, he discovers that no one seems to know. He manages to get beside the creature who specializes in being rude and has his picture snapped. Before long Jeff finds out exactly who the Alien is I won't spoil the ending (but it isn't happy).
Most of the other tales here are more fairy tale-like than creepy, and most have messages, too. For example, in Bored Tom, the main character is always bored and wants to sleep all day. One day a talking cat offers to change places with him so he can doze all day. Tom eagerly accepts the offer, only to find out that once he's a cat, it's not easy to become human again.
Many parents may want to plunk the story Simon down in front of their grumbling teenage children. Simon is a spoiled boy whose poor parents give him everything, sacrificing their own needs. Meanwhile, Simon only takes and has no desire to help his parents. When his parents can help no more, he leaves in disgust, determined to get whatever he wants and be noticed by everyone. He gets his wish but ends up miserable and finally returns to his parents begging for shelter. Avi is the award-winning author of numerous books, including <i>Nothing but the Truth</i> and <i>The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle</i>. Here's yet another that is compelling and readable a great choice for any youngster in need of a good summer read.