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I can remember two short stories, and while I am not entirely sure if they're from the same book, I would hugely appreciate finding either.

The first story I remember reading about was about a girl and her father starving during a harsh winter. It opened with the girl pulling up a floorboard and chewing it, trying to eat any flour she might have once dropped on it, as she regrets messing up baking bread and wasting flour earlier in the season. At one point her father wonders if he can get her some meat to eat, and thinks that her face has become thin and drawn like a fox's. At some point, a cat freezes to death.

The other short story I remember and cannot find is a sci fi about a small boy who lives in a futuristic society with robots. He is looking forward to his fourth birthday, but remembers that his last birthday he celebrated was also his fourth. He meets another older boy and learns that he is being kept perpetually young with a technology a scientist discovered for parents who never wanted their children to grow up. He breaks out of it by learning to read, and looks forward to his fifth birthday.

I have no idea when the book was published but this has been bothering me for the past ten years. Any help is massively appreciated. ChatGPT had no ideas.

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2 Answers 2

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As Sean Duggan has said, the second story is clearly Infinity Jinx by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The first one is almost certainly Dear, dear kitty by Marion Dane Bauer, which is a ghost story in which two children from the present day (Jeremy and Lily) see the ghost of Sarah, a girl who died of starvation during a long winter. As you recall, she sucked flour from the wooden barrel that they had used to hold it:

They were hungry, so hungry. Sarah had taken apart the keg that had once held flour and sat in the meager warmth of the iron stove, licking and sucking the last traces of flour from the wood.

Sarah's cat, Mr Lincoln, indeed freezes to death during the story. As the situation becomes more desperate, Sarah imagines that her father is going to kill the cat and eat him, and so flees outside the cabin holding her cat in her arms where both of them freeze.

This indicates that the anthology must be Unexpected: 11 Mysterious Stories, which is (as far as isfdb knows) the only anthology that holds both these short stories. It is available for free loan from the Internet Library.

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  • Thank you. I wasn't certain what was in the other stories. Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 13:47
  • Thank you so much, that was exactly it and you've solved a decade long nagging mystery for me. I know comments should be constructive but I just really wanted to say thanks! Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 20:34
  • @StaleSandwich My pleasure! Have fun reading the stories. Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 23:25
  • @StaleSandwich: FWIW, comments are exactly where we want people to provide thanks. :-D Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 0:34
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The latter story is “Infinity Jinx” by Margaret Peterson Haddix as per this SF&F SE answer. They quote from a now defunct blog:

What if children stayed as just that, children? After the terrible twos and troublesome threes but before the rebellious age of the teenager who no longer wants to hug or be seen with you. At that age where they love you, listen to you and think you are the coolest parent in the world and await Santa’s yearly arrival? That idea is explored by Margaret Peterson Haddix in the Infinity Jinx as the protagonist is 5, it's a bit hazy but he can remember his birthday last year also being his fifth birthday and the one before that. It's an interesting concept with good and bad sides which she explores in this wacky world of forever five.

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