Portable Childhoods

portable-childhoodsI have a crush on Ellen Klages’s delightful story collection, Portable Childhoods. Published in 2007, its stories use just a touch of fantasy to capture the wonder and potential of childhood, the sweetness and fear that come with discovering the world. There’s so much here for book group readers to love and to discuss:

“Basement Magic” updates the wicked stepmother/fairy godmother tale with a story of a Detroit girl who turns to the housekeeper for help with some conjure magic to keep her nasty beauty queen stepmother at bay. “Intelligent Design” brings us little God as a creator as child, learning how to make stars and beetles at his grandmother’s knee. “The Green Glass Sea” make a beautiful child’s souvenir out of sand fused by an atomic blast. “Time Gypsy” sends a young lesbian physicist back to a less tolerant time in search of her idol’s lost time travel theories. In “A Taste of Summer,” a girl finds strange shelter in a forbidding storm. “Guys Day Out” is the heartrending tale of a father’s fishing trips with his Down Syndrome son. The title tale encapsulates the emotions of parenting in ten wonderful vignettes. For book lovers, the best of all may come last, as “In the House of the Seven Librarians” blends an aging Carnegie library with a revision of the Sleeping Beauty tale.

These are tales that will leave you thinking about what makes a happy ending. Whether you’re in the mood to recapture youth, fall under a spell of enchantment, shed a tear, or feel the potential and fear of a world discovered anew, Klages will satisfy your emotional needs, often striking several moods in the same story. I hope some of you will join me in experiencing this little known writer.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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