What a robust and eclectic aggregation of story is Rich and Rare. When over forty-five of Australia’s finest writers pool their collective imagination to produce an anthology of short stories for middle school children, the result, overall, is a heartily gratifying read. There is something for everyone in this lot. As the back cover blurb proclaims, these are ‘stories to sink your teeth into … a world of natural (and unnatural) gifts on every page – from humour to horror, thriller to fantasy – encompassing the past, the present and the future’. The collection also includes adventure, crime, science fiction, romance, ghost stories and poetry – which pretty much caters for all tastes. (The graphic by Leigh Hobbs entitled ‘A Writer’s Morning’ would plant a smile on any writer’s face, the target audience aside.)
After an enticing foreword by Sophie Masson, that, let’s face it, the kids will probably skip, the reader is treated to a sumptuous array of content and writing styles. From Gary Crew’s Dickensian ‘Dr Lovechild Regrets’ about the haunting of a sadistic and sour old teacher with a penchant for persecution to Susanne Gervay’s ‘Grandma in the Sky’ in which a young girl seeks solace in talking to her teddies and dollies as she comes to terms with the loss of her grandmother, the reach of theme is broad. Readers are treated to Michael Gerard Bauer’s trademark humour in ‘The Knitting Needle Ninja’ and to Catherine Bateson’s beautifully crafted and cleverly understated ‘The Stray Dogs Café’ in which they are credited with an ability to make their own story connections. Sophie Laguna’s mini essay on the incorporeal nature of hope in ‘Hope Cannot be Photographed’, Lucy Sussex’s horror story, ‘Angelito’, about a child rising from his grave during Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival and Gabrielle Wang’s allegorical ‘The Two-Faced Boy’ in which a boy with everything learns a life lesson when a jinn steals his face are more examples of the rich diversity and scope of the anthology. Phillip Gwynne’s ‘Tidy Town’ in which the main character dares to go against the grain in a world that would have him conform, Kerry Greenwood’s who-dun-it, ‘The Glass Egg’ and Paul Collins’ fantasy story, ‘The Black Sorrows’, where Jelindel must rescue an angel from the depths of the sewers … Poems by Sherryl Clark, Meredith Costain and Michael Wagner … The list goes on.
A version of this review appears in Magpies