This collection of short stories, poetry, images and nonfiction, aimed at children aged 12 and up, comprises new and established authors from the Asia-Pacific region. The styles vary, but most contributions evoke an enchanting sense of place or interactions between cultures—for example, stories about refugees and migrants—which gives the collection an overall focus. Some inclusions are weaker, especially some of the poetry, although Doug MacLeod’s humorous verses are a highlight. Some contributions are suitable for younger readers, while others track first forays into love or are quite violent and even morbid, such as Peta Freestone’s ‘Milford Sound’, which deals with abuse, sorrow and death (it is wonderfully wrought and one of the standouts); Sofie Laguna’s ‘Learning to Fly’, in which the protagonist jumps from a roof; and Pat Lowe’s ‘Yinti’s Kitten’, in which the narrator feeds the brains of a cat to its own kitten, then abuses the kitten in a fit of frustration (this sounds horrific, but is actually a powerful fable). Chris Wheat’s hilarious ‘Guide to Better Kissing for Australian Teens’ is another highlight. In all, the collection feels imperfect, but there are some gems, and the idea behind it is fantastic. It would make a great series.
Hannah Francis is a bookseller at the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.