Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Help me find this book!

I once ran across a book - I think when I was about 10 years old, and therefore probably in a middle-school library in Small Town, Minnesota, USA - which I have been trying to locate all my adult life. The problem is, I can't remember the title, the author, or the right keywords to trigger a search that will lead me to it. Perhaps you know the book of which I speak; if so, I would welcome your help.

Here's what I remember about it. It was an anthology of short stories, possibly by one author. They were whimsical tales involving ghosts, magic, and monsters - spooky stories with a comical twist. Two particular stories stand out in my memory.

One of them was definitely titled "A Box on the Ears." It was a typical ghost story about a kid who has to spend a night in a haunted house, up to the point when the ghost sneaks up on him and says "Boo!" At which point, the plucky little hero gave the ghost a beating around the head and shoulders, and reduced it to penitent tears. The very sort of story to read to a child who likes to get goosebumps at bedtime, but doesn't want nightmares afterward!

The other story may have been called "The King's Legs," or "The Rooster's Egg," or both, or something else entirely. For all that I'm not sure of the title, it was my favorite story in the collection. In a village just large enough to support two pubs, the trouble starts when a clever stranger opens a third pub and, with his flair for publicity, undercuts his competition. First, in contrast to the other pubs known as "The King's Head" and "The King's Arms," this new pub takes the novel name "The King's Legs." The other publicans try to raise an outcry about this, but the sign depicting a the king's legs as strong and lean impresses an emissary of the king. One of the other publicans tries changing his pub's name to "The King's Belly," but it backfires because his sign shows a portly tummy, which displeases the king's representative. There is further mischief concerning a display of a "rooster's egg" and, in my favorite part, the village witch (who is also the village nurse) tries to convince the newcomer that he is fatally ill, and then that he is dead. Just when it seems the new publican has obligingly lain down and died, he reappears in perfect health, claiming to be a different person and declaring his pub to be "under entirely new management."

Does anybody recognize this silly story? Can you tell me what book it is in? I would be very happy to know!

P.S. I just received a copy of Diana Wynne Jones's Aunt Maria, which I had ordered second-hand through AbeBooks. On a cursory examination, it does appear to have all the pages in the correct order. Thanks for your comment, Marie N.!

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