There is a long tradition of sharing stories that scare. Young readers often enjoy reading books that unsettle and disturb them a little as fear in small manageable doses can be exciting. Catherine Fisher’s new collection of short stories, linked by their setting in Wales, weaves together myth, legend, folk tales and contemporary fiction and is perfect for those who are drawn to that sense of the strange and supernatural. These are creepy tales for dark evenings when the ordinary can become something sinister.
The Red Gloves and Other Stories is made up of nine stories that were written over a long period of time. Some have appeared in other collections or anthologies and others are newer and have not been published before. One of my favourites, The Hare, was written for a competition judged by Jenny Nimmo, author of The Snow Spider. This was inspired by themes contained in the Taliesin legend and so affected me that I have decided to read more around that subject. Sgilti Lightfoot is another based on legend, this time King Arthur’s court, and has, I think, a fairy tale quality to it. Nettle is a version of an old English folk tale called Yallery Brown and is re-imagined here to good effect.
Among the selection are stories featuring magical elements, or the power of nightmares, or imagination. Another of my favourites, the Ghost in the Rain, a traditional Victorian ghost story, needed to be read twice to answer my questions at the ending. A sure sign of a tale that has worked well! Several of the stories are ambiguous both in their endings and in whether or not the happenings are supernatural or prompted by imagination or fear. This makes them even more effective. There is a good balance of story styles in this collection making it suitable for dipping into or reading in order. The links to both Wales and folklore make this a good stepping off point for further reading in the classroom and this would be excellent read aloud for about ten years old plus.
The evocative illustrations by Anne Glenn at the start of each story perfectly complement the stories and she is also responsible for the stunning cover. The Red Gloves and Other Stories was published on 16th September in hardback with sprayed edges by Firefly Press. I should like to thank the publishers for my proof copy.