Portable Childhoods (Part Two)
(Continuing Part One)
Some stories feel familiar. The story "A Taste of Summer" brought to mind Ray Bradbury’s "Dandelion Wine" (a fact duly noted by Cory Doctorow). "In the House of the Seven Librarians" begins with a premise not too dissimilar from "The Baby in the Night Deposit Box" by Megan Whalen Turner. Kudos to that story, by the way, and not just because I’m a librarian. In a very small moment the tale alludes to the fact that "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" is a classic tale. There’s also a mention of Nero Wolfe, which I appreciated quite a lot, being a Rex Stout fan and all. The stories in this book are rarely so familiar that you feel you’ve seen them before, of course. Nor do they vanish from your brain mere moments after the reading. Some stay around longer than others, but for the most part they’re all there. Shifting about. (the aforementioned award winner). It is not, however and for all this, a children’s book. This is a work of adult stories for adults. I am terrified to review it. It breaks with everything I do. Everything I know. Everything I’m comfortable with. It is, in short, a necessary step in my development. And the fact that it just so happens to be a fabulous book as well doesn’t hurt.
I’ve done some freelance work in the past where I’ve had to collect short stories relating to a variety of different topics. When I did this "Portable Childhoods", I found, was a particularly useful collection to have on hand. Consistently well written and emotionally stimulating, the book is one of the loveliest you’ll find. It’s not for children, but many of the stories in this title conjure up the feelings we all associate with our own youth. Well worth a gander.
Notes on the Cover: Well, you know how it is. This being an adult novel, maybe I shouldn’t try to hold it to the same standards I would one for children. Maybe. As it stands, there’s the indistinct Photoshopped image of a small child sitting on a large toy car. The image is black and white with just a brilliant (not to say bizarre) orange conical hat on the kid’s head. The kid is, on further examination, just a toy. A baby doll. On the top of the cover is a series of images that sort of go with the whole “Portable Childhoods” theme. They don’t really appear to refer directly to any of the stories in the book. And though tiny, they seem to have only their oddities in common. Two feature monkeys (apes?). Four are of children. Three or four (hard to say) are of childhood toys. It’s disturbing and oddly appropriate. So while I don’t know if I like the central image on the cover (yes yes, babydolls = creepy, we know) I am rather partial to these pictures at the top. They make for a far more dynamic cover than we usually see on short story collections.
Other Blog Reviews: Boing Boing
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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