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Friday, December 14, 2012

'Things a Map Won't Show You: Stories from Australia and Beyond' Edited by Pam McIntyre and Susan La Marca

From the BLURB:

An unforgettable collection of short fiction, poetry and comic art from Australia and beyond . . . 

A boy who tries to fly, a cricket game in a refugee centre, a government guide to kissing, the perils of hunting goannas, an arranged marriage, an awkward blind date, a girl who stands on her head, an imprisoned king and a cursed Maori stone . . . 

Sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, always compelling, this collection featuring both established writers and emerging talent will broaden your horizons and excite your imagination.

Including: James Roy Tanveer Ahmed Michael Pryor Ursula Dubosarsky Sonya Hartnett Doug MacLeod Oliver Phommavanh Brenton McKenna Tara June Winch Sudha Murty Oodgeroo Paul Jennings

‘Things A Map Won’t Show You’ is a collection of short stories from Australia and beyond. Edited by Pam McIntyre and Susan La Marca, the collection features new and established writers who were given free range to choose genre, location or form”, in writing for Year 7-8 readers.

I love, love, loved this book! Pam McIntyre and Susan La Marca have done a phenomenal job of gathering diverse voices across a range of genres and all appealing to young adult readers. Here is a collection that revels in the short story, and will entice young readers to love them too. I really can’t fault this collection, and I’d actually quite like to occupy a rooftop one sunny Sunday and shout my praise from said rooftop.

First off, the look of this book is absolutely stunning. The artwork within is just lovely, and that visual aspect carried over to three short stories. Brenton McKenna’s ‘The Art of Hunting’ is an exhilarating graphic short story.

In ‘Starks’s Statues’, Tohby Riddle offers remnants of an 1860s photo journal which makes for a fascinatingly quirky short.

Chris Wheat’s ‘A Guide to Better Kissing for Australian Teens’ is ingeniously set out like a Government pamphlet.

I also loved the diversity of this collection. Obed Raggett is one of the Aboriginal writers to contribute. His biography explains that he tells stories “he learnt as a boy from his mother; others he heard around the camp fireplace” and in ‘The Two Little Round Stones’ he’s retelling one such story, which is as haunting as it is beautiful.

And I appreciated that verse stories are also included, and one of my absolute favourites was from the reflective ‘Poetry’ by Horiguchi Daigaku

I want to seek my poetry in pain and hardship. 
I want to write a poem irrevocable once written. 

A house without beams or pillars  
But that stays firmly upright,  

Each line supporting the other, each word 
Echoing through its neighbour. 

I want a poem that never comes to an end at its end. 
I want to find my poetry in pain and hardship.  

Horiguchi Daigaku

So, what brings all these short stories together? There’s a definite love of the land expressed in just about all of the stories. And what I found really beautiful in some, was a child-like wonder – whether it be of the home we've always known, or a new discovery of our surroundings. Like in James Roy’s second-person narrative, ‘Out of the Yellow’, in which you and your family are driving eight hours to get your first glimpse of the ocean. 

You walk right down to the damp sand, your feet sinking into it. So this is it. This is where Australia ends and the rest of the world begins. This is what the black wiggly line means – this very spot is somewhere on it. One more step and you’re off the edge of the map, out of the yellow and into the pale blue.Another wave comes in, a bigger one. The frothy stuff washes up over your shoes, but you don’t even care. You’re on the very edge of the country. At this moment, no one is more On The Edge than you are. 

       — James Roy, ‘Out of the Yellow’

One of my absolute favourite short stories was an excerpt from Tara June Winch’s novel ‘Swallow the Air’, which has the most lovely opening of two children “cloud busting” and revelling in their surroundings;

We go cloud busting, Billy and me, down at the beach, belly up to the big sky. We make rainbows that pour out from our heads, squinting our eyes into the gathering. Fairy flossed pincushion clouds explode. We hold each other’s hand; squeeze really hard to build up the biggest brightest rainbow and Bang! Shoot it up to the sky, bursting cloud suds that scatter, escaping into the air alive. 

     Tara June Winch, ‘Cloud Busting’

There’s also a theme in these short stories of children and young adults navigating life, and all its complications. Sonya Hartnett in ‘The Second-Last Baby Tooth’ is telling a horrible story, “the kind that makes you want to hide your head in a bucket whenever someone mentions it.” Oliver Phommavanh is one Aussie middle-grade author that I just love, and in his short ‘Introducing Wendy’ he’s bringing out more of that teen boy angst over girl catastrophes that I so love and snort over in his novels. And in Ursula Dubosarsky’s ‘Australia Day’, a little girl confronts thoughts of mortality and dying when she comes down with food poisoning.

But perhaps my favourite short story was Ruth Starke’s ‘Only a Game’, in which the NIPS XI (North Illaba Primary School) cricket team travel to a Detention Centre (also known as an APOD: Alternative Place of Detention) to play a friendly game against some of the asylum seeker kids. The game and all that’s at stake for both teams causes the NIPS to think on what they have to lose versus good sportsmanship, and is a really thought-provoking and heart-warming tale.

Here is a rather special book. Truly, this collection bowled me ever for its beauty in the brevity and for showing such a stunningly well-rounded collection of Australia and overseas voices, all offering a little something for young adult readers. This is a collection which does not discriminate across genre, and there will be something here for all young readers; poetry, contemporary, historical, fantasy, a how-to and a graphic short story. This is a collection for young readers to sink their teeth into!



  1. Thank you, Danielle! I think that's the most comprehensive and insightful review the collection has yet received, and it's wonderful that you found so much to like and love in it. Thanks particularly for your appreciation of my story, Only A Game.

    1. You're welcome :)

      I really did love the collection, and those big-hearted NIPS players especially.

      Thank you


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