In this unusual pro bono gathering, 21 children struck by cancer are worked into elaborately staged photographs and then into matching stories created by as many Utah authors.
For his “Anything Can Be” project, photographer and collection editor Diaz costumes the young patients according to their wishes—as fairies, athletes, knights, a firefighter, a cowpoke, or less generically as a baker, “Batkid,” and a “fashionista”—and portrays them here with fulsome introductory tributes to their spirit and courage. The children display these qualities in the ensuing stories, and if the cover’s claim that most of the authors are “best-selling” is, at best, premature, there’s quality here. Shannon Hale offers a tale of a warrior princess imprisoned in a tower by goblins who shave her head so she can’t escape à la Rapunzel, and Brandon Mull gives readers a costumed young superhero redirecting a vengeful bullying victim onto the moral high road; both stories are strong and effective for all their brevity. The overall tone of earnest boosterism is twice relieved by funny stories (Tyler Whitesides’ “A Fireman Always Helps” and Bobbie Pyron’s “Sada of the High Seas”) and by Lehua Parker’s powerful “Mermaid’s Tale,” in which just walking up a staircase becomes an agonizing feat of endurance.
Broad streaks of sentimentality, particularly in the pictures, but the worthy purpose shines through. (Short stories. 8-12)