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KIDBITS

SOMETHING TO READ

"Even More Short & Shivery," retold by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers; Delacorte, 146 pages, $14.95.

You can pick your poison from among the 30 stories in San Souci's third "Shivery" collection.

As in his previous collections ("Short & Shivery" and "More Short & Shivery"), San Souci concocts an interesting witch's brew of tales of horror from around the world, boiled down with machinelike efficiency into his own no-nonsense style.

The most truly terrifying story is San Souci's retelling of "The New Mother," a cautionary tale about two children who are promised toys and trinkets if they will act naughty until they become so awful their mother leaves home and they get a new mother -- with glass eyes and a wooden tail. For some reason, the image of that ghastly new mama stays in your head.

A good choice for a read-around-the-campfire scare is "A Night of Terrors," a girl cowering in bed terrified -- and unaware just how close the danger really is.

Then there's the bride who disappears on her wedding night during a game of hide-and-seek in her family's mansion in the British story "Never Far From You," and an African-American traditional retelling of the Orpheus legend in "Dicey and Orpus."

Other chillers feature a giant maggot that crawls out of a grave, a ghost on a train cradling the severed head of her dead husband, a deer woman who tramples to death a young Indian brave and adaptations of tales by Charles Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen and Washington Irving.

San Souci describes in notes at the end the origins of the stories and sources for all his material.
-- Jean Westmoore

SOMETHING TO DO

There's still time to catch a performance of "The Hardy Boys in the Mystery of Skullbone Island," at the Theatre of Youth (282 Franklin St.). And this is the perfect time of year to see a play about a ghost of a famous pirate ship. The play is based on the Hardy Boys book "The Secret Warning."

Performances are Friday evenings at 7, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2, through Oct. 31. Tickets are $10; call 856-4410 for reservations.

A KILLER JOB

"Mom, you killed it!"

This sentence has been screamed many times in the past few weeks as kids, after a hard day slaving over school work, come home to find that their virtual pets are dead.

As schools ban virtual pets (such as Tamagotchis and Gigas), parents have been forced to baby-sit -- with sometimes deadly results.

"I won't get Mother of the Year this year," says one mother who killed her daughter's toy.

Another mom said that when her daughter's cyber pet whined, the mom's co-workers thought it was her pager going off. And when her boss saw the toy, he thought it was so cool, he asked for a demonstration.

To help smooth out the problem, the makers of Tamagotchi, Bandai America Inc., are reminding people that there is a pause option on its toy. And Tiger Electronics, makers of Giga, say they are considering adding a pause feature.

Another solution: an "Electronic Pet Daycare Center," where kids can send their cyber pets for free baby-sitting during the school year. The Cape Cod Potato Chip company of Hyannis, Mass., is offering that to its employees' kids.
-- Chicago Tribune

WRITE HERE, RIGHT NOW

Here's an address for the queen of Halloween:

Elvira

P.O. Box 38246

Hollywood, Calif. 90038

Q. Why do people say "Bless you" when you sneeze?

A. Ever feel like a big sneeze could blow your brains out? Long ago, people thought the soul was in the breath. After all, dead people don't breathe. So people were scared that a sneeze could accidentally blow away the soul! That's why many cultures came up with sayings to wish sneezers good health, long life, or help from spirits or gods.

"God bless you" may have caught on in the sixth century. A plague was killing people in Italy, and the disease made people sneeze. The story is that Pope Gregory the Great told people not just to pray for the sick, but to say "God bless you" if they sneezed. As the disease spread across Europe, so did "God bless you."

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