The Last Dream of Old Oak by Hans Christian Andersen
This is a great story that emphasizes the value of perspective that is captured in an unlikely conversation between an ancient oak and a mayfly.
The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
The Selfish Giant is one of the five tales that appeared in The Happy Prince and Other Tales, a collection of children's stories that Wilde published in 1888. This is a classic allegory tale, where a hidden meaning is revealed through the telling of the story. This particular story has a strong moral message and seems to reflect the author's own spiritual journey.
A Clever Thief by Nancy Bell and S.M. Mitra
This Hindu Tale from the Sanskrit asks, "Do you think there was anything good in the character of Hari-Sarman?"
The Aged Mother by Matsuo Basho
This is a short short story -- a very quick read -- about an aging mother and her loving son. They are subject to a cruel mandate issued by a cold-hearted ruler. The order is terrible, but compliance is the custom.
One Summer Night by Ambrose Bierce
This is a short
short story, only 616 words long and it's one that will probably more popular amongst the boys in class. A popular aphorism lifted from Hamlet
states, "Brevity is the soul of wit." I include this story as an example of direct and purposeful writing.
The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry
This story is truly a classic. Even if you already know the story it's still a delight to read. O. Henry takes one smart father, two hapless con artists, and one willful child, then he animates the story with a hefty dose of unintended consequences.
The Tell-Tale Heart by by Edgar Allan Poe
This classic horror story exemplifies the use of an unreliable narrator; a literary technique whereby the author relates the story from the point of view of a character whose credibility has been compromised. Poe gets into it with the very first sentence where the narrator discloses a mental illness but argues that the affliction has not harmed him but made him ever sharper; "TRUE!-NERVOUS--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses--not destroyed--not dulled them."
Hearts and Hands by O. Henry
The twists and turns are unexpected, as was O. Henry's own life; he had fled to Honduras after being charged with embezzlement, turned himself in, served five years in federal prison, then published this story.
The Lumber Room by H.H. Munro
Most of us secretly enjoy the adventures of a bad boy and this story is a personal favorite of mine. "The aunt had many other things to do that afternoon, but she spent an hour or two in trivial gardening operations among flower beds and shrubberies, whence she could keep a watchful eye on the two doors that led to the forbidden paradise. She was a woman of few ideas, with immense powers of concentration." This is a fun story. Sometimes the kids really do win.
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
The Cask of Amontillado is a short story and horror story classic. The story unfolds as one man -- the narrator -- tells a close friend how and why he took revenge on a rival fifty years before. The interesting literary technique enlisted by Poe -- not invented by him, but used to great effect by him -- is to narrate the story from the perspective of the villain, rather than to tell a story about a villian and an act of treachery.
The Luck of Roaring Camp by Bret Harte
What happens when a baby is born in the midst of uncouth ruffian miners during Alaska's gold rush? Well, after a month or so, they have to give him a name! "Luck" beat out "Stumpy's Boy", "The Coyote", and "The Damned Little Cuss." But you have to read the story to find out if The Luck of Roaring Camp lived up to his name.
A Defenseless Creature by Anton Chekhov
A quick read at 1900 words, Chekhov's story will transport you to a different country, culture, and time. There are many different types of people you will encounter in life and a couple of them are outlined in this brilliant character study. You will meet these people again as you grow older and travel the world, remember this story when you do!
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
"This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment." So starts Rudyard Kipling's classic adventure tale about a family in India, a mongoose named Rikki-tikki-tavi, and the deadly king cobra snakes living on their grounds.
The Golden Windows by Laura E. Richards
An allegory about how a change of perspective and time can affect our perceptions of value in ourselves and others, this story is part philosophy, part science lesson.
The Dreamer by H.H. Munro
Adela Chemping declares, "I'm not a bargain hunter . . . but I like to go where bargains are." She arranges a shopping expedition with her nephew Cyprian -- a young man, almost 18 -- who has always carried the "wondering look of a dreamer." She wants him to carry her purchases. He has other plans. This is a fun story. As Willy Wonka said, "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."