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Red Spikes

by Margo Lanagan

Published by U.S. edition: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007
167 pages
ISBN: 0375843205

Age 15 and older

Australian writer Margo Lanaganís short stories create a sense of displacement as readers navigate unsettling geographic and emotional terrain. Lanagan is a master at blending the familiar with the extraordinary, and from the friction between the two she not only weaves arresting stories but also invites challenging questions about nature and human nature. The toy figures of a childís war game come to life, casting a pall of sleep over all but a single boy who acts as midwife as a queen gives birth, and is left with the baby she leaves behind with a return to battle. An adolescent monkey mourns her ailing tribal leader. With his death comes violence and violation as males vy for dominance, and then instinctual appreciation for the victor. A clinging girl has been cast out by her mother to spend the night with another family. She fears a man who walks the night and in trying to get home again is caught. Her rescue is born of a motherís love and the knowledge of women, which she now shares without full comprehension. The soul of a bird returns with a cloak of its earthly form in order to save a teenage girl who has alighted down a dark and dangerous path. In ten remarkable stories, Lanagan offers hard and harsh realities pierced by moments of tenderness that not only sustain a sense of the worth of it all, but define it.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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