Comeuppance is the theme of the six stories in The Ribbajack, an eerie new collection from master storyteller Brian Jacques. School bullies, bratty kids, boastful fishermen and abusive uncles get their just desserts from an assortment of creatures: a Ribbajack, a ghost, a Kelpie, a latter-day Medusa, a mongoose and a werewolf.

In the lead story, and the longest, Archibald Smifft, school bully and dabbler in the occult, is bored by the petty pranks he has pulled so far. Tormenting teachers and students with flies, spiders, wasps and worms gets boring after a while. When he asks his constantly terrorized roommates what really terrifies them, Peterkin Soames tells him about the Ribbajack, a creature that can be created and called up for one evening's act of revenge. Sure enough, Smifft creates such a creature: one bulbous eye, a loathsome torso, a feathery neck, crocodile scales, a pair of three-taloned feet and clenching hands eager for something to strangle. The tables are turned, however, when the creature goes out to seek its quarry, old Reverend Miller.

In "A Smile and a Wave," a girl finds a ghostly surprise when she returns to school after hours to retrieve a coat she had left behind in the library. In "The Mystery of Huma D'Este," handsome Jason Hunter might be alive today had he realized that the new girl in school, the girl with the strange eyes, is really a "nightmare come to life."

These and the other stories here are suitably creepy and great for reading aloud.

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