This unassuming hardcover in black buckram with a dark lavender title plate is the door into a world of twisted pleasures. Filmmaker Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands
, The Nightmare Before Christmas
) tells 23 winsomely macabre stories about boys and girls who don't fit in. Their bodies are misshapen, their habits are odd, and their parents are appalled by them. But they do try hard to be human, like poor unwanted Mummy Boy, who's "a bundle of gauze": he goes for a walk in the park with his mummy dog. Some kids are having "a birthday party for a Mexican girl." They think Mummy Boy is a piñata: "They took a baseball bat and whacked open his head. Mummy Boy fell to the ground; he finally was dead. Inside of his head were no candy or prizes, just a few stray beetles of various sizes." For all its simple humor, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories
is a peculiarly disturbing book about the violence that children suffer. It is illustrated in pen and ink, watercolor, and crayon. The themes and imagery are at a young-adult to adult level.