Edited by Tehani Wessely

FableCroft (2010)

Reviewed by George Ivanoff

Worlds Next Door is a fab little anthology of Australian spec fic for kids. A quick look at the contents page and you’d be pretty surprised if it wasn’t a good read — the editor has assembled an enviable list of contributors well known in specfic circles.

As with any anthology, there were some stories I liked more than others — but there were no clunkers. I enjoyed each and every one, it’s just that some shone for me, whiles others were merely a pleasant read. Overall, I love the fact that none of the stories try to dumb things down for the target readership… which, of course, has the side-effect of making them very readable for an adult audience as well. The stories are intelligent, sometimes challenging and always entertaining.

Amongst the many cool tales of were-snails, mega wombats and moonchildren, my particular highlights were:

* RJ Astruc’s “Enid and the Prince” — a witty look at what happens when an ordinary farm girl marries a handsome prince. It made me chuckle.

* Geoffrey Hugh Miller’s “The Guardians” — a gentle fantasy about a modern boy and some ancient Chinese guardians. The mix of the contemporary with the ancient works extremely well.

* Angela Slatter’s “Genevieve and the Dragon” — a great little fairytalesque fantasy. I loved the very matter-of-fact style of ending, without the need for an almost-expected, contrived twist.

The absolute standout for me, though, was the opening story, “The Best Dog in the World” by Dirk Flinthart. A terrific concept with a good plot and an emotional conclusion, it deals with the lengths to which a lost dog will go to get back to his owner and the way the human race learns to exploit this noble trait. It is definitely a story to make kids wonder if the end can justify the means. It almost had me in tears.

Worlds Next Door is a very strong anthology! What more could you want? Well, there’s a website of resources for teachers — http://worldsnextdoor.wordpress.com. The site includes activities based on individual stories, story downloads, audio versions of some stories and guest blogs from some of the authors. It’s a brilliant resource!