cover image THE RIBBAJACK: And Other Curious Tales

THE RIBBAJACK: And Other Curious Tales

Brian Jacques, . . Philomel, $16.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24220-5

Jacques, working more in the vein of his Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales than his Redwall fantasies, offers up a half dozen short horror/morality tales. The title story concerns Archibald Smifft, a truly fiendish 11-year-old being raised at a British boarding school, whose evil plan to conjure a fearsome beast called the Ribbajack backfires in spectacular fashion. In "A Smile and a Wave," a solitary trip through a haunted school library teaches a girl gratitude for her home and mother. "The All Ireland Champion Versus the Nye Add," a neatly constructed fish tale, crackles with the feel of a story told aloud at a pub, thanks to a spirited narrator ("Well, I've told you the tale now, so I'll go on me way an' bid ye good day. But it's a true story...."). The volume closes with "Rosie's Pet," a werewolf yarn that revels in its British trappings and, especially, in its own playful attitude. The plots are familiar and at times feel fragmentary, but Jacques's deft wordplay and masterly tone add compensatory gusts of pleasurable thrills. Ages 10-up. (May)