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Bruce Coville's Book of Magic II
Introduction
Mr. Cranky Says Goodbye

Well, here it is, gang. The end of the road, the last book in the set, the final volume that brings us to an even dozen Bruce Coville's Books of All Sorts of Weird Things.

I hope you've enjoyed them. (From the mail I get, I'd say you have.) They've been a lot of hard work for our team, but I'm pretty proud of what we've accomplished.

One of the things I'm most pleased about is that we have provided a home for long short stories.

See, there's something weird about children's magazines in this country: they all insist on fairly short stories-as if kids have limited attention spans or are too dumb to read something longer. So during the four years that we have been working on this series, these books have been one of the very few places that someone who writes for kids could tell a short story that was more than two thousand words long.

Which means that these books were about the only place a reader like you could find such stories-stories where the writers had the pages necessary to tell a longer, more complex story than they could do in eight pages. (Which is not to say that we let our writers sprawl all over the place. We always tried to tighten the stories, making the writing sharper and more focused.)

In one way, an insistence on short, simple stories in most places is no surprise. This country has a lot of weird ideas about kids and how to treat them. The people who make cereal and toys look at you not as people, but customers. (“Get those kids to buy! Buy! BUY!”) And publishers, who really ought to know better, too often look at you as dopes who aren't willing to read long books with big words. (“Kids won't get it!”)

(Heh. If they think kids don't get it, they ought to take a look at what adults don't get.)

Well, I do sound grouchy today, don't I? But, you know, I've devoted the last twenty-five years of my life to working for and with kids, And I get cranky when I see people not taking them seriously, not giving them credit for what they can do, how deeply they think and feel.

What's all this got to do with magic?

Well, magic is just one form of power-a way to make things happen. And your whole job as a kid is to get power. You start out with none (we're all born naked, ugly, and helpless) and gather it as you go along.

Your power comes from what you learn. every skill you pick up, every bit of knowledge you add to the pile, gives you more power in the world. When you want a cookie and all you can do is scream, you have very limited power.

When you learn to say, “Mother, please give me a cookie, or I'll bit you,” you have more power.

And when you learn to make cookies yourself, you have real power.

Now the truth is, the way you get power is by hard work.

“Jeez,” I can hear you say. “Where's the magic in that?”

Depends, I suppose, on how you define magic.

One major aspect of magic, as you'll find in the stories that follow, is transformation-the changing of one thing into another. Fast transformations are more spectacular-but often less likely to last. Transformations that take time, like the transformation of an infant to an adult, the slow addition of bone and muscle and brain and skill, is something solid and real and a miracle beyond anything our science can now create.

A sort of magic, if you will.

And that's what you're about as a kid. You're gathering your power, preparing yourself to enter the world and transform it with the magic of your strength and your knowledge and your righteous anger at all that is wrong that doesn't need to be.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to have some fun along the way!

Which is why we've put together this book for you. In the pages that follow you'll find wizards and unicorns, magic shops and dragons, weird spells and wacky fairy godmothers. Everything, in short, that I look for myself when I read a book of magic.

And if the stories are longer and stronger and stranger than you find in most other places-Well, don't tell the grown-ups.

What they don't know won't hurt them.



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