Guys Read: Other Worlds, edited by Jon Scieszka (Walden Pond Press, Sept. 17 2013), is the fourth of a series of anthologies of boy-friendly (which I guess was defined by each author however they wanted to) short stories. This articular volume, as its title implies, is a collection of sci fi and fantasy stories, written (and in one case, drawn) by hot-shot names in middle grade fiction:
Ray Bradbury (!)
and Shaun Tan (he's the one who drew...which you could have guessed).
I don't how to really "review" anthologies, but I can make definitive statements that may be useful for those wondering if they should get a hold of it.
1. It has a Percy Jackson story. It's not one that adds all that much to the on-going saga (it's just a little sideways adventure that Percy and Grover have in New York City), but it's fun. Percy Jackson fans will want to read it.
2. Shaun Tan is a genius, and his offering, though short, was one that I found curiously moving (and I liked the iguanas).
3. Mostly it's about boys doing things, but the main character of Shannon Hale's offering, "Bouncing the Grinning Goat," is a girl, and it's a nicely satisfying fantasy story that should appeal to guys just fine.
4. Eric Nylund's story, "The Warlords of Recess," is funny--aliens laid low by playground rules. I imagine that a lot of kids, in thrall to those same rules, will find it very satisfying.
5. Some of the stories are really superb science fiction, the sort where you're reading along, and then there's a zingy shift, an !!!! moment, and suddenly the picture is all changed, and you end the story with a chill on your neck and a sigh of satisfaction (Neil Shusterman's "The Dirt on Our Shoes," and D.J. MacHale's "The Scout"). I am feeling a touch of frisson just remembering these two.
6. The Ray Bradbury story, "Frost and Fire," was first published back in 1946, and anthologized in R is for Rocket. It's a powerful story (pushing toward novella in length), and is a good, meaty, very sci fi introduction to Bradbury. It's perhaps the most challenging of the stories--most of them start off with seemingly ordinary main characters moving into strange-ness, but Bradbury starts off strange, and gradually adds humanity to his characters and their desperate circumstances. I think it's a good sort of challenge that will push the readers who will appreciate it toward other sophisticated, "what if" speculative fiction, and possibly toward more Bradbury (though I wish I myself have never read some of the Bradbury I did, because it haunts me).
7. On Amazon the age range is given as 3-7th grade. I would say it's more like 5-8, with the caveat that there are doubtless high-reading fourth graders who would enjoy it just fine. I don't think, for what it's worth, that my own avidly reading 10 year old is quite ready to appreciate some of the stories, mainly because he's not used to science fiction, but partly because many of the stories are pretty sophisticated, and require the reader to make connections that aren't spelled out in explicit detail (although I could be selling him short...)
So the anthology does what it should do, and I bet lots of kids will enjoy lots of the stories, and I bet lots will only read the Percy Jackson story, but then maybe even those kids will go back to the book, and find a new author or so they like, and then maybe they'll go on from there....(this presupposes that in today's Internet world, kids aren't the same sort of passive lumps that I was--it never occurred to me to wonder what else my favorite authors had written....)
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher