This review is from: Rags & Bones (Hardcover)
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Short stories are tricky little beasts. Just because a novelist can write a novel, doesn't mean they can write a short story. It is an art in itself. A great short story can be exquisite and clever and a masterpiece in its own right. A bad short story can be about one of the most frustrating pieces of writing you will ever come across.
Anthologies are also problematic. Unless you're lucky, you're never going to love every piece by every author in an anthology.
This is certainly the case for me with regard to this anthology. It is supposed to be a collection aimed at children, but I would say it is firmly in the teen/YA category rather than anything for younger children.
Partly this is because each story is written by the author in response to a story that fired their imagination when they were younger, and to get the most out of these stories it really would be useful to have read some of the short stories the authors are alluding to. These stories, in the main, are fairly grown up. The first story in the collection, for example, is written in response to a story by E.M. Forster.
I confess that I have not read any of the stories the authors are responding to, which, I felt left me rather clueless at times, particularly with the first story, and the story of the man who tries to bind the nature of love with immortality. I felt that there were things I was missing in the stories I was reading that I may have understood better had I read the originals.
The other reason I would suggest that these stories are suitable for older readers is that one story concerns a couple having an adulterous affair, which although not described graphically, would certainly raise questions in younger readers minds and perhaps require a level of explanation that parents are not ready to go into. There are other challenging concepts in the book which might raise questions, the nature of death, the question of immortality etc, that are perhaps either going to be so over a younger child's head they will miss the point of the story and be bored, or be so inquisitive that a parent will be permanently engaged in explanations.
The stories, in my opinion are patchy in quality. I enjoyed Neil Gaiman's story, which was the main draw for me. I wanted to enjoy Garth Nix's story, because I love his Sabriel trilogy. I didn't find myself engaging with the short story as much, I am sad to say. The more sic-fi stories I didn't enjoy at all. It is a genre that doesn't appeal to me. Others were merely OK.
I loved the idea that binds the anthology, but it didn't really work for me on reading.