cover image Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures

Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures

Peter Dickinson. Small Beer Press/Big Mouth House (Consortium, dist.), $17.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61873-038-1

Dickinson, a two-time Carnegie Medal winner, continues his series of short story collections based on the four elements; the two previous volumes were coauthored with his wife, Robin McKinley. Many of the six tales within are drawn from mythology. In the powerful “Troll Blood,” a college student named Mari who, according to family tradition, is distantly descended from trolls, becomes strangely interested in the study of an obscure Old Norse manuscript. In “Ridiki,” a Greek boy, Steff, who mourns the loss of his dog, is drawn, like Orpheus, to a cave with the forbidding name of Tartaros. The remarkable “Wizand” introduces a hitherto unknown magical symbiont responsible for the creation of witches, whose “closest analogy... in the material world... is that of certain tropical ticks.” The somewhat less successful “The Fifth Element,” the only SF story in the book, concerns a multispecies, interstellar exploration team whose work becomes oddly uncoordinated after the death of Cat, their seemingly useless mascot/pet. These unusual, memorable tales from a much-admired writer should appeal both to teens and Dickinson’s adult fans. Ages 10–up. (Sept.)