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1. Best in Children's Books, 31

Best in Children's Books, Volume 31. 1960. Nelson Doubleday. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]

Let's go vintage! This title is the thirty-first volume in a long series of books called Best in Children's Books. It was published in 1960 by Nelson Doubleday. It blends fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry. It has many contributing authors and illustrators.

Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the Far West by Smith Burnham with illustrations by Edward Shenton. This is an excerpt from Hero Tales from History (1922, 1930, 1938). If there is a politically incorrect buzzword related to Native Americans--this story has it in abundance: savage, powwow, red men, peace-smoke talk, redskins, red braves, war dance, peace dance, scalp dance, snake dance, papoose, etc. There are better stories of Lewis and Clark to share with young readers these days.

Tattercoats by Joseph Jacobs with illustrations by Colleen Browning. This little story reads like a fairy tale. It even has a little romance.

Singh Rajah and the Cunning Little Jackals by Mary Frere with illustrations by Edy Legrand. This is an excerpt from Old Deccan Days or Hindoo Fairy Legends Current in Southern India (1898). This is an animal story about a LION who is tricked by a family of jackals who don't want to be eaten--they are the last animals in the jungle. What I like best about this story are the color illustrations.

The Middle Bear by Eleanor Estes with illustrations by Phyllis Rowand. This is an excerpt from The Middle Moffat (1942). The Moffats are in a play for charity. The play is The Three Little Bears. It's quite charming.

Chips, The Story of a Cocker Spaniel (1944) by Diana Thorne and Connie Moran with illustrations by Phoebe Erickson. This is a sweet though predictable story of boy meets dog.


The Picnic Basket by Margery Clark with illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham (1924). This is an excerpt from The Poppy Seed Cakes. This one is illustrated in color. And the illustrations are very interesting--bright and colorful. If you enjoy vintage work, then these illustrations will prove appealing. The story itself is about a boy and his Auntie going on a picnic together. There are plenty of twists and turns in this one!

Windy Wash Day and Other Poems by Dorothy Aldis with illustrations by MAURICE SENDAK. The poems come from All Together (1925, 1926, 1934, 1939, 1952). I like the inclusion of poetry. I really like the poem "Naughty Soap Song."
Just when I'm ready to
Start on my ears,
That is the time that my
Soap disappears.
It jumps from my fingers and
Slithers and slides
Down to the end of the
Tub, where it hides.
And acts in a most diso-
Bedient way
AND THAT'S WHY MY SOAP'S GROWING
THINNER EACH DAY. (86)
Go Fly a Kite is a nonfiction piece by Harry Edward Neal with illustrations by Harvey Weiss. I found it boring, you may find it instructional.

Salt Water "Zoos" is another nonfiction piece. No author is given credit. It is essentially about large aquariums and oceanariums. (This book was published several years before the first Sea World opened. My guess is it used to be a lot harder to see dolphins and sharks and the like.) The focus is on Marineland of Florida.

Cornelia's Jewels by James Baldwin with illustrations by Don Freeman. This one is short and historical in nature. The overall tone is very sweet with a focus on family. Cornelia's "jewels" are her two boys.

Three Seeds by Hester Hawkes with illustrations by Hildegarde Woodward (1956). This story is about a boy and his garden. The setting: the Philippines. Luis, the hero, misses his father who works in Manila most of the time. He can only come visit his family once or twice a month. One week he brings home a package of American seeds. The packet must have had a hole, however, because only three seeds remain. (The title spoils it all doesn't it?) The boy has hope, however, and with the help of a kind neighbor, the three seeds are planted...and from those three seeds comes a promising future.

Let's Go to Iceland and Greenland. This is a sad little feature, again no author is given. Readers do get five photographs and one map.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl

Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl. John Gardner. 1976. 55 pages. [Source: Bought]

If you enjoy folk or fairy tales, you might be a potential reader of John Gardner's story collection. The book contains four stories: "Gudgekin the Thistle Girl," "The Griffin and the Wise Old Philosopher," "The Shape-Shifters of Shorm," and "The Sea Gulls."

I think my favorite story is Gudgekin the Thistle Girl. The heroine is a poor girl named Gudgekin. Every day she gathers thistles for her stepmother. The stepmother is never, never satisfied. But Gudgekin keeps going out to do her best. One day a fairy intervenes and her luck is seemingly changed forever. With the fairies help, she's able to appease her stepmother and please herself. The fairies do the work, while she's spirited away to have fun. One day--again with the fairies help--she meets a Prince who falls in love with her. You might think you know where this one is headed, and, in a way you'd be right. But it is how long it takes for these two to get to happily ever after that may surprise you.

The second story confused me greatly. After the fifth or sixth time through the first two or three pages, it finally clicked that maybe just maybe it was intentional. The griffin visits the poor villagers to distract, confuse, and frustration. No one can remember how to do anything when he is nearby. Eventually I found the rhythm of this story. I still don't like it.

The Shape Shifters of Shorm, the third story, was entertaining. I liked it. But I didn't really love it. Essentially, a kingdom is being bothered by shape-shifters, the king offers an award for anyone who rids the kingdom of all the shape-shifters. A few step forward and volunteer for the task. But none are ever heard of again. Why?!

The Sea Gulls is an odd story. It contains plenty of magic, some spells, etc. I think it is an appealing enough story for readers. Essentially in that story, a king is met one day by an ogre who wants to eat him. The king says let's play a game of chance. If you win, you eat me. If I win, you wait seven years and eat me and my children then. The king won. (He cheated.) Most of the story is set seven years later....

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales

Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. John Gardner. Illustrated by Charles J. Shields. 1975. 73 pages. [Source: Bought]

Love fairy or folk tales? You should definitely seek out John Gardner's Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. This book has four original stories with magical, fantastical elements. The four stories are "Dragon, Dragon," "The Tailor and the Giant," "The Miller's Mule," and "The Last Piece of Light."

I can honestly say that I enjoyed all four stories. I'm not sure which story is my most favorite and which is my least favorite. Probably my least favorite is The Tailor and The Giant. Don't expect it to have a lesson or moral, and you may find it intriguing. It's certainly a spin on the theme of courage. As for my favorite, that would probably be Dragon, Dragon or The Miller's Mule.

Dragon, Dragon features a kingdom being terrorized by dragons--or a dragon, I can't remember if there's more than one. The king offers a reward, of course he does, and one by one three sons attempt it. But who will kill the dragon? Perhaps the one that actually follows his father's advice. Just a guess!

The Miller's Mule grew on me as I read it. It certainly kept me guessing as I read it. A miller decides to shoot his old mule; the old mule speaks--begs for his life. The miller spares his life--for better or worse. The mule promises to make him a wealthy man IF and only IF he follows his instructions carefully. The miller agrees...and it seems the mule is out to kill him in revenge....who will best who?

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Best In Children's Books, Volume 6

Best In Children's Books. Volume 6. 1958. Nelson Doubleday. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]

Let's go vintage! This title is the sixth volume in a long series of books called Best in Children's Books. It was published in 1958 by Nelson Doubleday. It blends fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry. It has many contributing authors and illustrators.

The Story of Early America by Donald Culross Peattie, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. This is an excerpt from A Child's Story of the World (1937). Honestly, I think I enjoyed the illustrations more than the text. Readers should know two things 1) These two chapters do not hold up to the test of time. They didn't age gracefully, in other words. 2) They contain passages with the potential to offend in varying degrees.

When Columbus landed, some naked red men on the shore ran away. After a while their childish curiosity got the better of them, and they came stealing out to meet the newcomers. (10)
He saw that these people were much more simple-minded than criminals from the jails of Spain. (11)
They were so evidently savages, and not the rich, civilized people that he expected to meet in India. So he called these men Indians, and so they have been called ever since, though of course our redskins have nothing to do with the real people of India. (11)
So the Spanish, Portuguese, and English sent ships to Africa to capture the jungle Negroes. They were thrown into boats and brought to America. The Negroes had powerful bodies. They did not mind the intense heat. They were afraid of the white men, and knew that they could never escape back across the sea. So they bent their backs to the hard labor and tried to be cheerful. They made good slaves. (23)
In the northern states slavery soon died out. One reason for this was that, in the North, factories and not farming were the important way of making money. Intelligent men were needed to work in factories. The Negroes, fresh from jungle life, were not ready for such work. But in the South, where tobacco, cotton, and rice were rich crops which all the world was clamoring to buy, the Negro slave could work better than the free white man. He did not have to use his head, but only his muscles. (31-2)
The Very Little Girl (1953) is by Phyllis Krasilovsky and illustrated by Ninon. This is a charming, delightful, very unoffensive little piece about a little girl who slowly but surely finds herself growing up.

The Elephant's Child (1900) by Rudyard Kipling. Illustrated by Henry C. Pitz. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. This is probably one of the main reasons I bought this book. In this story, readers learn about how the elephant got his trunk. A lot of spanking is involved! And the Elephant's Child isn't only the recipient of the spanking. This one makes a GREAT read aloud. While I would never, ever, ever read aloud The Story of Early America, I would share The Elephant's Child. Kipling has a way with words. "Great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River." I enjoy the characters. Especially the elephant, the crocodile, and the snake.

Poems of the City (1924) by Rachel Field, illustrated by Harvey Weiss. A selection of eleven poems by Rachel Field. Poems include "Skyscrapers," "Good Green Bus," "The Pretzel Man," "The Ice-Cream Man," "The Stay-Ashores," "The Animal Store," "City Rain, "Pushcart Row," "Chestnut Stands," "Taxis," and "At the Bank." My favorite was "The Ice-Cream Man."

The next story is The Shoemaker and The Elves by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm illustrated by Fritz Kredel. This is the traditional story. The illustrations are something. And it is an illustration from this story that is on the cover of this book.

A Child's World in ABC by Mary Warner Eaton, illustrated by Charlotte Steiner. This piece was written specifically for this book. I liked this one well enough. I liked the illustrations especially. But that doesn't mean it aged well.

Your Breakfast Egg is by Benjamin C. Gruenberg and Leone Adelson. Illustrated by Leonard Kessler. This was first published in 1954. It is an excerpt from YOUR BREAKFAST AND THE PEOPLE WHO MADE IT. Essentially it is a nonfiction piece celebrating "modern" and "scientific" advances in how chickens are kept, raised, etc. Celebrate the fact that your hens no longer have to go outside and find their own food to eat! Rejoice that now--day and night--they are kept inside cages and are fed with "all kinds of grains and other foods that are good for them." This chapter made me shudder. I had read about this in The Dorito Effect, of course, as one of the many illustrations of what is wrong with food. But this is a period-piece, if you will, showing how silly we can be.

Life in the Arctic and This is Italy are short nonfiction pieces with no given author. Both include a few photographs.

The Saddler's Horse by Margery Williams Bianco, illustrated by Grace Paull, is a short story about a saddler's horse and a cigar-store wooden Indian having a runaway adventure together.

Dick Whittington and His Cat is adapted from James Baldwin and illustrated by Peter Spier. I read a picture book by Marcia Brown (1950) last year and really enjoyed it. This story is nice, nothing unexpected, but nice.

Concluding Thoughts: The book is "flawed" in some ways in that a few of the pieces in this one reveal an America with a very different value system. But it's an opportunity to celebrate how far we've come in understanding one another as well. Some pieces sit "heavy" and others are just very light delights.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Publisher seeks literary fiction manuscripts

Moby BooksIndependent ebook publisher Moby Books (Canada) is looking for novels, novellas, and short story collections by emerging and established authors. Authors can submit full length manuscripts or partial queries for consideration. Payment and contract based on a print publishing model. Deadline: ongoing.

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6. Contest for dialogue-only short stories

Bartleby SnopesEntries are open for the Bartleby Snopes 8th annual Dialogue Only Contest. First prize: $300 minimum (higher if 50+ entries received). Compose a short story entirely of dialogue — no narration — that delivers a powerful and engaging story. Length: 2000 words max. Entry fee: $10 for unlimited entries. Deadline: September 15, 2016.

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7. Looking for bravest moments (YA anthology)

Annick PressChildren’s publisher Annick Press (Canada) is seeking true stories of bravest moments for a YA non-fiction anthology. The format of the testimonial can be in one of many different mediums (prose, poetry, photography, illustration, etc.). Contact Robbie Patterson at robbiep@annickpress.com for full details.

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8. Wanted: Fiction about India & the global south

Litro MagazinePrint & digital journal Litro Magazine (UK) is accepting submissions for its October issue. Theme: India and the Global South. Accepts short fiction, flash/micro fiction, and nonfiction (memoir, literary journalism, travel narratives). Length: 4000 words max. Deadline: August 18, 2016.

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9. $1000 prize each for poetry and fiction

Room Magazine is accepting entries for their annual Poetry and Fiction Contest. Prize in each genre: $1000 plus publication. Judged by Marilyn Dumont (poetry) and Doretta Lau (fiction). Room’s contests are open to women, trans*, two-spirited, and genderqueer people. Deadline: July 15, 2016.

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10. Wanted: Your ‘happy endings that hurt a little bit’ (pays)

Syntax and Salt, which publishes 13 magical realism pieces a season, seeks submissions for Issue 2. Length: 3500 words max. Likes old stories told in a new way and new stories told in an old way, plus well executed sad endings. Pays $10/story. Deadline: June 15, 2016.

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11. Seeking stories that ‘linger just out of reach’

WILDNESS (UK) wants work that evokes the unknown. Now seeking poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for their fourth, fifth and sixth issues. Deadline: Rolling.

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12. Paying journal seeks poetry & prose

Biannual independent arts & lit journal The Quilliad (Toronto) seeks submissions for the next issue. Publishes poetry, flash fiction (500 words or less), and short stories (generally 1000-2000 words). Send 5 poems, 5 flash fiction pieces, or 2 short stories max. Payment: $12 honorarium, contributor’s copy, and free admission to the launch party for your issue. Deadline: April 30, 2016.

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13. Seeking writing about the senior’s life

Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine (NC), which explores the wide spectrum of the senior citizen’s life, seeks pieces for the next issue. Open to poetry, short fiction, creative essay, memoir and book reviews from anyone, anywhere. Welcomes any topic, and in any voice or style. Main criteria: the work needs to be good: it should engage the reader/viewer, enrich our experience. Deadline: June 1, 2016.

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14. Contest for previously published fiction/non

Submissions are invited for the Sequestrum Editor’s Reprint Award. Open to reprints of fiction and creative nonfiction in any original format (electronic or print). One $200 prize plus publication. Minimum one runner-up prize including publication and payment. Fee: $15. Deadline: April 30, 2016.

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15. New art & lit journal seeks submissions

Submissions are open for the debut issue of November Bees, a quarterly online art and literature journal. Currently seeking previously unpublished nonfiction and fiction (including blurred genre hybrid) under 1,000 words, plus poetry and visual art. Deadline: July 15, 2016.

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16. Poetry & prose contest for adults & youth

The Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group invites entries from adults and youth for the 2016 Write on the Lake Contest. First prize: $100. Categories: Poetry (3 pages or 1500 words max), fiction (2500 words max.), and creative nonfiction (2500 words max.) Entry fees: Adult – $20 and youth (under 18 years) – $10. Deadline: July 31, 2016.

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17. Mystery story contest with $200 prize

Entries are invited for the 2016 Arizona Mystery Writers Annual Jim Martin Memorial Story Contest. Entry fee: $15. First prize: $200. Submit mystery, suspense, or thriller stories, 2500 words max. Contest is open to all. Contact amwcontest@gmail.com with questions. Deadline: June 1, 2016.

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18. Write about killing your lawn … or gardening

Chrysalis (Canada) is creating a gardening zine, “Kill Your Lawn”, with the first print edition set to be released in late May. Seeking creative writing (of any kind), how-tos, and art about gardening, permaculture, self-sufficiency, and homesteading. Also accepting submissions on an ongoing basis for both print and online content. Send submissions to chrysaliszine@gmail.com. Deadline: May 16, 2015.

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19. Children’s story contest with $1000 prize

Entries are open for the Helen Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award. Prize: $1000. Submit a short story for young children (up to age 7) that reflects the diversity of the world’s population and values desirable in global citizens. Open to residents of Canada and the Caribbean. Deadline: May 13, 2016.

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20. Arts journal seeks “green” interpretations

ArtAscent seeks submissions on the theme of “green.” Entries may include fiction, poetry, short stories and other written explorations (up to 900 words). Selected entries published in ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal. Open to international writers. Entry fee: $10. Deadline: April 30, 2016.

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21. The Pastures of Heaven

The Pastures of Heaven. John Steinbeck. 1932. 207 pages. [Source: Library]

This was not my first Steinbeck, but, even so I didn't know quite what to expect. Sometimes I love, love, love his work, and, other times I really almost hate it. The Pastures of Heaven is a collection of inter-connected short stories set in California, spanning several decades, I believe.

I wouldn't consider myself a fan of short stories--usually. The one notable exception being my love for L.M. Montgomery's short stories. But. I found the stories within The Pastures of Heaven to be compelling and entertaining. I read the book all in one sitting, it was just that hard to put down. True, it's not a huge book. But still, it's worth noting all the same. There was a time when I read many books quickly, but, that isn't the case anymore.

The characters. What can I say? Some I really liked. Some I really hated. Some I almost felt pity for more than anything else. I think overall one could easily say that Steinbeck created very human, very flawed, very authentic-feeling characters. Some stories were on the amusing side; others were almost melancholy. I liked the variety. Not just of the emotions within the stories and the types of stories, but, also of the narratives, of the narrators.

I was not a fan of Grapes of Wrath, but, I am a fan of Pastures of Heaven.

Favorite quote:
He knew that the people who were to be his new neighbors were staring at him although he could never catch them at it. This secret staring is developed to a high art among country people. They have seen every uncovered bit of you, have tabulated and memorized the clothes you are wearing, have noticed the color of your eyes and the shape of your nose, and, finally have reduced your figure and personality to three or four adjectives, and all the time you thought they were oblivious to your presence. (12)


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Fiction wanted for NS lit journal

Lost Documents, a literary journal from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, seeks prose submissions for their 3rd and 4th issues. Submit flash fiction and short stories to lostdocuments.ns@gmail.com.

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23. Write about ‘red’ for new UK journal

New print/online independent magazine Chroma (UK) is accepting submissions of poetry, short stories, and articles. Length (prose): 500-1500 words. Theme: Red. Interested in writing that focuses upon love, lust, passion, sex, anger, meat, blood, communism, capitalism and any other red object you can think of. Deadline: April 30, 2016.

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24. Wanted: Your heartwarming, your creepy, your edgy best

3Elements Review is accepting submissions for Issue 11. Theme: reflex, trace, labyrinth. All three words must be used in each submission of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Also accepting art and photography submissions. Deadline: April 30, 2016.

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25. Write about place/displacement for new journal

The Papermachine, an online multi-genre arts and literature publication, is seeking short fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction entries for its inaugural issue. Particularly interested in work that explores themes of place, “home,” and displacement. Word length: up to 3000 words per entry. No fees for submission. Deadline: April 16, 2016.

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