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A Pack of Lies

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Winner of the 1988 Carnegie Medal


Gr 7-12-- This sophisticated book weaves a varied set of stories into a larger tale with a strong British style and content. Ailsa and her mother are constantly struggling to keep bills paid and food on the table, so adding another person the household is the last thing they need to do. However, when Ailsa meets MCC Berkshire (from ``Reading'') in the library, she brings him to her mother's antique store where he takes up residence on an old bed that's for sale. He quickly improves business by captivating his unsuspecting audiences (customers) with tales about the various items they eventually buy. The stories, or ``pack of lies,'' MCC Berkshire tells are filled with adventure, horror, romance, comedy, tragedy, or mystery. Even though Ailsa and her mother don't know whether to trust this man or not, a growing relationship binds them all in this unusual piece of fiction with surprising twists at the end. McCaughrean is eloquent and flawless in her style. --Judie Porter, Media Services Center, Portsmouth School Department, R.I.

Mrs. Povey's antique business is a disaster--she is so honest about flaws in objects that she talks customers out of buying them, and undercharges people when she finally makes a sale. Then along comes MCC Berkshire, a mysterious helper who insists on working for nothing. Both Mrs. Povey and her daughter, Ailsa, are quickly out-dueled by the man's skilled use of language and his irrefutable logic. He tells elaborate stories about objects in the shop, verbally seducing each potential buyer into making a purchase. Each chapter amounts to a short story about a particular object, but MCC and McCaughrean aren't content to create mere diversions. Each story is written in a different literary style (gothic, epic, folkloric), all of them enthralling. The author leaps from genre to genre, in the writing equivalent of sleight of hand. Within each tale are surprising twists and turns that overlap and extend the stories-within-stories; McCaughrean pulls off each meta-fictional complexity with finesse and humor. Ages 10-13. (May)

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