Do you remember when you were young and there were certain short story writers whose tales always made you feel good? They could be scary, they could be funny, or they could just be about things that made you think. But whenever you read a book of their stories you felt as comfortable as if you were tucked into bed in a warm comforter on the coldest night of the year.
It might be a howling blizzard outside but inside the comfort of those pages you were long gone and safe. You could be staring down the biggest, ugliest, and hairiest monster known to all human and non-human kind and feel right at home. These worlds of the imagination kept away the reality of the test you hadn't studied for tomorrow, or the fact that you had made a fool of yourself at school (again) today and were going to suffer for it for at least the next week.
You wished that you too could really climb aboard that rocket ship to go off and encounter strange places and even stranger beings. In my opinion Ray Bradbury was the past master of these stories, and it appears I'm not alone in that thought. Neil Gaiman's latest collection of short stories isn't titled M Is For Magic by accident. He says in his forward that he phoned Ray Bradbury and asked his permission to tip his hat to Ray's wonderful collection of short stories R Is For Rocket.
Neil Gaiman is of course the author of an incredible body of work ranging from graphic novels, The Sandman series, and movie scripts (MirrorMask), to a multitude of books and short stories for adults and children. His books can scare you half to death and leave you delighted and smiling. But mainly, just like the man he admires so much, opening a book of his short stories is the surest way to forget yourself and the troubles of your day for as long as you're able to keep the book open.
Nominally for young people M Is For Magic is like Bradbury's collection before, a compilation of stories culled from previous works that Mr. Gaiman felt younger readers would like. The book appeals to the place inside of us that yearns for stories of less than earth-shattering importance. Somewhere inside us are still those kids who loved to listen to ghost stories around the camp fire, to look up at the night sky and wonder who might be living up there, and who knew there were stranger things living in the woods than foxes and rabbits no matter what our parents said.