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Past Perfect Present Tense: 10/29/08

Past Perfect Present Tense is a collection of short stories by Richard Peck for tween readers. Some of the stories are reprints and some were newly written for this collection. The book ends with two how-to essays to encourage creative writing while giving practical advice.

Most of the stories have a supernatural or surreal twist to them. Sometimes the twist is only just a tiny hint at the end of an otherwise ordinary but well written story. For instance in "Priscilla and the Wimps" (1984) the male protagonist recounts how his school was run by Monk Clutter, the school bully. His career comes to an end with the help of an unlikely heroine, Priscilla.

At the other extreme, there are the ghost stories like "Girl at the Window" and "The Most Important Night of Melanie's Life." Both of these are in the vein of The Twilight Zone, with hints dropped throughout for observant readers. These two were my favorite of Past Perfect Present Tense.

Sometimes Peck plays with unexpected characters or unusual points of view. The best examples of this type of story are "Fluffy the Gangbuster" and "The Kiss in the Carry-on Bag." Of those two, I prefer "The Kiss" where the fish out of water is a prince playing hooky from his royal family. "Fluffy", a tale of a tough cat was too much like trying to read a plot into those dogs playing poker paintings.

Richard Peck includes short explanations to about half of his stories in Past Perfect Present Tense. Most of these introductions come with the reprinted stories. They help to give insight into his creative process and to the ways in which his style has evolved over time.

The stories in here are:

  • Priscilla and the Wimps
  • The Electric Summer
  • The Special Powers of Blossom Gulp
  • By Far the Worst Pupil at Long Point School
  • Girl at the Window
  • The Most Important Night of Melanie's Life
  • Waiting for Sebastian
  • Shadows
  • Fluffy the Gangbuster
  • I Go Along
  • The Kiss in the Carry-on Bag
  • The Three-Century Woman

The stories in here are:

  • How to Write a Short Story
  • Five Helpful Hints

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