THE TOPIARY GARDEN

Stomping down the road, away from her all-male family in a rage, Liz meets ancient Sally Beck, who invites her into the local manor's topiary garden to hear how she once became a boy. Fleeing her own family, Sally donned her brother's clothes, changed her name to Jack, and found a job as a gardener's boy. Though forced to unmask after several years, she was allowed to stay on, becoming at last head gardener and living out her days surrounded by carefully trimmed, oddly shaped greenery. Liz finds both disturbed dreams and solace in Sally's tale: visions of horned figures and huge shears, but also, ultimately, a firmer sense of self as well. For a story about transformation, what better illustrator than Browne? His seven enigmatic paintings feature looming, massive topiary, in which an occasional female body is the only recognizable shape, and garden tools or shadows the only sign of habitation. This strange, subtle episode, originally published in Howker's Badger on the Barge and Other Stories (Greenwillow, 1984), stands on its own in this small, neat volume, printed in well proportioned but tiny type. Thoughtful readers shouldn't be bothered by the many Briticisms, but there's an appended glossary just in case. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-06891-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity.

FUTUREDAZE

AN ANTHOLOGY OF YA SCIENCE FICTION

A low-wattage collection of original stories and poems, as unmemorable as it is unappealingly titled.

The collection was inspired by a perceived paucity of short science fiction for teen readers, and its production costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign. The editors gather a dozen poems and 21 stories from a stable of contributors who, after headliners Jack McDevitt and Nancy Holder, will be largely unknown even to widely read fans of the genre. The tales place their characters aboard spacecraft or space stations, on other worlds or in future dystopias, but only rarely do the writers capture a credibly adolescent voice or sensibility. Standouts in this department are the Heinlein-esque “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” by Stephen D. Covey & Sandra McDonald, about a first date/joyride in space gone wrong, and Camille Alexa’s portrait of a teen traumatized by a cyberspace assault (“Over It”). Along with a few attempts to craft futuristic slang, only Lavie Tidhar’s fragmentary tale of Tel Aviv invaded by successive waves of aliens, doppelgangers, zombies and carnivorous plants (“The Myriad Dangers”) effectively lightens the overall earnest tone. Aside from fictional aliens and modified humans, occasional references to dark skin (“Out of the Silent Sea,” Dale Lucas) are the only signs of ethnic diversity. Most of the free-verse poetry makes only oblique, at best, references to science-fictional themes.

A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity. (author bios) (Science fiction/short stories. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9847824-0-8

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Underwords

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

STORIES FROM WHERE WE LIVE

THE GULF COAST

A century ago, collections of intelligent anthologies for children graced bookshelves, encompassing titles like The World and Its People and The Outdoor Book. This fourth installment of the similarly minded literary series mapping the eco-regions of the US treats the Gulf Coast. All edited by St. Antoine, each seeks to give its readers a true impression of its proscribed region through memoirs, fiction, poetry, and finally exposition. It doesn’t fail, even if some authors’ connections with the Gulf Coast at times are a bit of a stretch, like equating a Po Boy with a Hero sandwich. No matter, for much of the collection is lively and evocative. Audubon and John Muir, with slightly archaic language, line up here with contemporary, earnest-sounding lesser-knowns. The poetry is uneven and sometimes clearly serving the political topic, like “Migration Midpoint,” making the excellent “Eulogy for a Hermit Crab” and “My Mother Returns to Calaboz” stand out the better. The Kathy Starr selection, “The Soul of Southern Cooking” is out of place here because a Gulf Coaster would never accept writing from the Delta Country as appropriately proximate, no matter what boundaries the scientists define. Better choices would have been writing by Jessica Harris or even memories culled from Leah Chase’s cookbook. But two of the best stories, “Fig Picking,” and “Mosquito Blues,” are perfectly pitched for this anthology, although the authors are also technically not Gulf Coasters. The canny inclusion of fables of mythic proportions by the late J.J. Reneaux and the great Zora Neale Hurston add the right atmosphere and spice. So mixed with the obligatory manatee and Key Deer stories, newcomers to the Gulf Coast will materially experience the poignant diversity of this dwindling coast of marshes, beaches, and bayous as if they were walking its circumference, no mean editorial feat. Locals will glow at the inclusion of “Buried Christmas Tree,” concerning what is becoming a necessary Gulf Coast custom: the recycling of Christmas trees to create new barrier islands. An extensive essay on the ecological makeup, habitats, plants, and animals wraps it all up. (bibliography, author’s notes, list of parks and preserves, map, not seen) (Anthology. 12+)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-57131-636-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more