Ten Sorry Tales is a collection of wondrous stories about quirky characters and bizarre events. Open it to meet a boy who brings a butterfly collection back to life, a girl who collects bones, an evil old horse which steals buttons, and two old ladies who gut and smoke their visitors like herrings and keep them around the house for company.
Jackson works in the very English tradition of Roald Dahl, with echoes of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Mervyn Peake. The humour is wickedly understated and an unspoken sense of community makes even the weirdest behaviour somehow congenial. Nature, too, is welcoming: a small boy can run away from his abusive home to live peaceably with the animals in the forest.
The collection obviously belongs on the fantasy shelf, and like most good fantasy it can be enjoyed by all ages. Buy it for yourself but don't be surprised if your children steal it, or buy it for your children but make sure you borrow it from them. It is, incidentally, one book you can judge by its cover - the illustrations by David Roberts complement the text perfectly.
'Ghoulish and heart-warming' is not a common combination, but it describes Ten Sorry Tales better than any other. If I were to add one more word to the description, it would be 'marvellous.'
I found myself trying to ration these stories like fancy chocolates so that they would last longer.
Faber and Faber, $29.95
Review added March 2006