Loathe At First Sight Short Story Ellen Conford Bibliography

Lots of little girls long to own horses, but here's one who imagines she can become a horse whenever she wants. ''I am perhaps the last mustang,'' she tells us in the first of the brief ruminations that structure this book in place of a story line. ''This is my pasture, my own prairie. ... See, how beautiful my mane in the wind!''

Unfortunately the author immediately veers away from this fantasy to dwell instead on the faults of all the people the child feels don't understand her. That means everybody - Mama, Papa and a baby brother whom she thinks of only as ''Bother.'' Other children disappoint her too. The girls are all ''girlygirls'' who only play dumb games like House and Shopping. Boys are merely ''silly.''

The negativity here is like quicksand, and once Catherine Petroski's book stumbles into it, it's sunk. Not even Robert Andrew Parker's watercolors can keep it from going under. His pictures, though, are lovely. The outdoor scenes, looking freshly rinsed after rain, depict sunny meadows and far-off hills where the delicate lemon-greens and sky-high blues of early spring mingle with rosy sunsets. The interiors are clean, well-lighted spaces framed by glowing panels of color and shadow. Yet the people tend to look grim and tight-lipped, infected, surely, by the simmering anger in a text that finally buries itself under a litany of complaint. IF THIS IS LOVE, I'LL TAKE SPAGHETTI, By Ellen Conford. 165 pp. New York: Four Winds Press. $8.95. (Ages 10 to 14) By PATRICIA LEE GAUCH

''I hate you, Wallace B. Pokras,'' one of Ellen Conford's heroines mutters at a too-silent phone, then contemplates whether to slip rat poison into Wallace B.'s Gatorade or to warn his new girlfriend that every time there's a full moon he develops an unholy craving for chicken hearts.

Ellen Conford is funny again, sometimes wickedly so, in this collection of nine short stories. Using a variety of snappy styles and titles that turn tricks of their own, she sends her heroines into battle against plates of spaghetti, a minirock star, a doublecrossing boy on a double date and more.

In ''Loathe at First Sight,'' a witty, well-timed dialogue, a boy tries to dazzle a girl on the beach with wordy charm, only to be properly put off until he starts to talk straight. In ''Your Three Minutes Are Up,'' another girl's parents threaten to rip the phone off the wall while she tries to determine from her caller what her boyfriend knows, what he thinks she knows and what he would want her to know. It's a funny scene.

Echoes of Dorothy Parker's monologue ''The Telephone'' resound in the witty story about Wallace B. Pokras, and Dr. Lamour is a Miss Lonelyhearts in ''What Do I Do Now?'' in which a teen-aged ''Desperately yours'' turns ''Gratefully yours'' as she pleads for, and gets, advice about a geometry-class crush.

Ellen Conford's only disappointing story, unfortunately the first, is ''If This Is Love, I'll Take Spaghetti,'' in which her one-liners give way to preaching about weight and self image.

The short story - ironic, at times satiric and poignant - is too little used in young people's books. Mrs. Conford succeeds with stories grounded in human sensitivities and brightened by her sure knowledge of what makes people laugh. Elaine Edelman is a poet and freelance writer and author of ''Boomde-Boom.'' Patricia Lee Gauch's new teen-age book is ''Night Talks.''

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schema:description "If this is love, I'll take spaghetti -- I'll never stop loving you, Tommy Toledo -- What do I do now? -- Take my mom -- please! -- I hate you, Wallace B. Pokras -- The girl who had everything -- Loathe at first sight -- Your three minutes are up -- Double date."@en ;
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