An anthology can be compared to a patchwork quilt, sewn by many hands. Each piece in the patchwork is different: distinctive in texture, shape, pattern and colour. Each piece, separately created, has its own individuality, is its own thing, and could exist on its own. Such difference, such separateness, should mean that it’s impossible to put them together. Or if you do, something of that distinctiveness and individuality is lost.
But of course, that isn’t true. A patchwork quilt sewn by many hands is a beautiful thing not despite, but because it is made of distinctive pieces, created by different people.
And thus with good anthologies. Created by many different minds … the separate pieces in an anthology are each interesting in themselves, and also together create an atmosphere that is both gripping and relaxing, thoughtful and lively, something you can draw over yourself time and time again, yet always find something new in, and something to fit whatever mood you’re in.
Rich and Rare is a collection of stories, poems and art from many of Australia’s well-known creators (who are listed on the back cover). There are realistic offerings, spec fiction tales and almost everything in between. There are stories of hope, horror, triumph, friendship, time travel, set in familiar and imagined worlds. Offerings range in length from single page poems to around 30 pages. Black and white illustrations appear throughout. The illustrations both contribute to other stories and tell stories of their own. There are Contents pages suggesting the genre of different stories from ‘Contemporary’ to ‘Ghost’ and ‘Crime’. There are bios of all the creators at the end.
Rich and Rare is enticing from the (borrowed from our national anthem) title and Shaun Tan’s cover art, all the way through to the final poem. Even the bios at the end offer micro-stories. At nearly 500 pages, there is something for every reader in this smorgasbord of original Australian works. The cover creates a sense of foreboding and deliciousness, from the character pleading to be saved from being eaten to the shiny blood-coloured title. Sophie Masson’s introduction likens the collection to a patchwork quilt and like a quilt it can be absorbed as a whole, in one continuous read, or readers may focus on individual stories, dip in and out to access their favourite creators, or introduce themselves to others for the first time. Highly recommended for mid-primary aged readers and beyond.
Rich and Rare: A collection of Australian Stories, Poetry and Artwork, edited Paul Collins Ford St Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925272116
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
Available from good bookstores and online.