cover image Tick Tock Tales: Stories to Read Around the Clock

Tick Tock Tales: Stories to Read Around the Clock

Margaret Mahy. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16.95 (92pp) ISBN 978-0-689-50604-8

These 12 stories are so inventive that the reader can rarely see beyond the next curve. In ``Sailor Jack and the Twenty Orphans,'' for example, the title character takes to piracy so that he can become rich enough to adopt Tom and the other 19 chaps at the orphanage. But the other pirates disdain Jack's fastidious ways and maroon him on an island. One night a cave opens and out pops a woman named Emily wearing pearls and seaweed. The island turns into a boat, and Jack and Emily sail to the orphanage where they marry and, in exchange for her pearls, adopt the 20 boys. Other startling entries feature a boy who bounces like a ball, orphans who are tended by birds, and a mouse who ``thinks dog'' to defend himself from a cat. The writing crackles with dry wit: ``Jack answered quickly and grammatically, `It is I.' '' Smith's blithe but bland vignettes seem an odd mate for such risk-taking storytelling, but Mahy herself provides color enough to compensate. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)