The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack


Children's Stories

Children's Stories

Spirits of the Western Wild by David Schaub and Roger Vizard

I am a big fan of fully dramatized audio and it’s rare to find one as beautifully performed as this book. A combination of excellent audio performances and wonderful dialogue (like the spirit who tries to sound educated but keeps using the wrong highfaluting words) makes it easy to keep track of a large and dynamic cast. In addition there are great sound effects that heighten the sense of being there and really add some gusto to the visual descriptions within the tale.

The story is equally strong—a very cute coming of age story that was clearly focused on a younger audience but which I (at my more advanced age) found thoroughly enjoyable. I hope this cast will produce other audio books in the near future.

I received this book from Audiobook Boom in exchange for an honest review.

Wally Roux, Quantam Mechanic by Nick Carr

I really liked this story but I’m not certain how to categorize it. Obviously it’s science fiction and a coming of age story, but it felt like so much more than that. The characterizations are deftly drawn so that even relatively unimportant characters shine in their vividness. And the narration by William Jackson Harper is quite simply superb.

Wally is a genius on a level that you find in superhero comics. He recognizes there is a problem in his world when he realizes that he is literally walking uphill to school and uphill home again while taking the same route. Outside of grandparents’ stories about the old days, that isn’t really something you come across very often.

So Wally invents some tools that let him fix it, but the story doesn’t end there. He keeps finding a growing number of problems with the physics of the universe and fixing them. No one believes he’s doing these things. His mother thinks he’s playing. But we the reader realize this is not the result of an overactive imagination (even though Wally’s imagination is quite active).

On top of all of this, we are watching young Wally deal with racial problems, girl trouble, and parenting issues. It’s a very short, but very endearing story about an extremely special young man growing up. I guess I knew how to categorize it after all.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

When I was in the eighth grade, a substitute teacher read the class the opening chapters of this story instead of teaching us math. I was totally entranced (unlike all my other classmates) and a couple of decades later when I came across the book in the library I had to finish it. Now I read it every year at Christmas. This is a story about why we need to look beneath the surface and think about the things we think we know everything about and how one small town is forced to do this when a bunch of troublesome kids manage to take over the annual Christmas play. This is a book that can bring both peals of laughter out of your throat and tears to your eyes and it can be enjoyed by the whole family from the youngest toddler to the eldest grandparent.

The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson

I've long enjoyed The Best Christmas Pageant Ever so it was true a pleasure to stumble across this sequel. Like the first book, this story revolves around the horrible Herdman children who despite being bad in most conventional senses of the word always seem to make things come out better by the end of the story. For me, these are nostalgia tales, although they’re actually written about a time a generation or so before my own childhood. But if you want a simple morality lesson that comes just slightly from the side, and you enjoy a few laughs along the way, you’ll like this series.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

This is a classic children’s story about a young mouse and a young boy who share a love of motorcycles and a strong desire to be grown up. It was a delight to discover how engaging this story remains forty years after I first read it. The chapters unfold with simple clear prose and a captivating storyline built on strong personalities that everyone—young and old—can relate to people in their own lives. Two scenes still stood out strongly in my mind even after forty years and they were even more exciting than I remembered them. In one, Ralph (the mouse of the title) desperately tries to escape the laundry basket before he can be dumped into the washing machine; and in the other he engages in an even more desperate struggle to transport an aspirin to his young human friend who is sick with a fever. This sort of imagery helps to build a wonderful dramatic story that you can enjoy by yourself or with the whole family.