And now for something completely different

We interrupt our regularly scheduled travelogue of the Quaker Bay Area for a literary review.

I picked up one of my seven year old son's latest library books. As usual, it's a collection of science fiction/fantasy stories. Bruce Coville's Book of Spine Tinglers II: More tales to make you shiver I opened it to read a little bit because I'm never quite sure that the books he chooses are really appropriate for his young emotional age despite his advanced reading ability.

Now I have read a few Bruce Coville books in the last year. He writes the very popular My Teacher is an Alien series. I really liked his Magic Shop series. And he's a friend of Jane Yolen, Quaker children's author extraordinaire. But I was not prepared for what I found in the first story, "The Coldest Touch (Part 5 of The Monsters of Morley Manor series)"

Here's the story: The protagonist has just been sucked bodiless into the ghost collecting machine of the evil Flinduvian alien. (Just go with it, you can read the context later.) Here's the paragraph that stopped me in my tracks:

"When you panic, you're supposed to take deep breaths. Since I had no nose, mouth, lungs, or air, I couldn't do that. Finally I started to pray. That helped. I didn't get a miracle or anything. But I did settle down, which was a sort of miracle all by itself, if you consider my circumstances. Then I was able to start thinking. "

Just like that. In a story all about monsters and aliens and space travel and villains that, from the pictures, look like they have frog eyes and pig noses and octopus hands. It's not a "Christian" book. But, I realize now, duh, like all of Bruce Coville's books, it takes the spiritual nature of human beings seriously and for granted. He writes books about science fiction, and fantasy. From his author's bio, "He has long been fascinated by the art and science of fear ad thinks that making people's spines tingle is a useful and interesting thing to do." He has a firm grasp on what appeals to kids. But he has a way of weaving the moral of the story into the fabric of the story so you almost don't notice until it's too late. You've been reminded of a human truth of love and respect and integrity - you know, those old-fashioned Christian virtues. I like it.

So I decided to do a little modern research. I googled Bruce Coville, and got 293,000 hits. One of them is his official homepage and that's good, but I need to narrow my search a little. What I really want to know is about his spiritual component. Have other people noticed? Does he ever talk about this? Three things come out.

1) His website does not show up in the search for "bruce coville spiritual". He never talks about it. None of the speeches he's given or interviews go into this aspect of his writing.
2) His books do show up on librarians' lists like "Books for teens who are soul searching" but also on one Baptist church's warning to keep children away from books about aliens and the occult. So other people have noticed.
3) Google item #21 in the search for "bruce coville spiritual" is a link to MY blog. ???? It was a list of things I was reading last summer and included Coville's Oddly Enough, a collection of great scary and spiritually uplifting stories which I decided was too old for Henry, but which I enjoyed. (I think it might be fine for someone over 10 or 12, let's say.)

So if you've read any Bruce Coville books, or heard about them anywhere else, please comment here. What do you hear? What do you think about them?

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