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Portable Childhoods

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  190 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Emerging from a unique and powerful voice, this innovative collection offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies hidden just beyond the ordinary, skirting the border between childhood and adulthood. Mysticism, heroism, cruelty, and compassion thread through these multifaceted tales—which range from the origins of the Manhattan Project to a culinary object-lesson, from 1950s ...more
Paperback, 210 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Tachyon Publications (first published March 23rd 2007)
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Lost in a Good Book by Jasper FfordeGuards! Guards! by Terry PratchettBeauty by Robin McKinleyPortable Childhoods by Ellen KlagesBeautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
Books Featuring Cool Libraries
4th out of 18 books — 11 voters
The Golden Compass by Philip PullmanSabriel by Garth NixThe Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanThe Phantom Tollbooth by Norton JusterThe Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Recommendations for Maggie
116th out of 205 books — 9 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 683)
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Feb 27, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
In the title story, the narrator's child describes how Columbus thought he discovered America but "it's sort of like if some guy rang our doorbell this morning and said he'd discovered our house, so it belonged to him." So when I say I discovered Ellen Klages very recently, I do so with the knowledge that she was there already, and I'm just happy to have made acquaintance with her writing. She popped onto my radar this summer when I read her story "In the House of the Seven Libraries", a standou ...more
Jul 01, 2008 Susann rated it really liked it
Recommended to Susann by: Melody & Tamara
"'I want the chance to dance with a boy.'"
With 16 stories in this collection, it's no surprise that a few were a bit weak or a little too reminiscent of one another. But the stories I loved, I loved with all my heart. Two made me cry on the subway, and others made me smile at Klages' gift for wonder. I never write in library books, but I hereby admit to marking the table of contents with a small dot next to my six favorite stories: Intelligent Design, Time Gypsy, Travel Agency, A Taste of Summer
Jul 04, 2007 Julian rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who wish they had magic powers
I loved these stories. Only flaw is that they're nearly all written on an identical theme - misfit children that escape from their misunderstood existences in magical or magical-realism-esque ways. That doesn't stop them from being awesome. My favorite was the story of God as a little boy and his grandma creating creatures together, with God really getting into the bugs.
Apr 17, 2009 Wealhtheow rated it liked it
My favorite story might be "In the House of Seven Librarians," in which a young girl is raised in a magic, completely closed off library.
Mar 19, 2011 Annmarie rated it really liked it
Read this due to librarian Neil Holland's rec. I enjoyed this collection of stories, but the themes are generally pretty similar - the awkward, misfit child, and the magical elements of childhood, often set around the 1950s, compassion and cruelty mixed together. Most of the stories have magical realism elements.

Some standout stories were Basement Magic, a twist on the wicked stepmother theme; Triangle, featuring two homosexual scientists, a Nazi artifact, and a disturbing ending; Intelligent D
“Basement Magic” – Story of a child, her neglectful stepmother, and the maid.

“Intelligent Design” – God as a child, and what he made in the kitchen.

“The Green Glass Sea” – A child of Manhattan Project scientists visits the Trinity site.

“Clip Art” – A transcript of a documentary on the subject of the object that has changed our lives so much.

“Triangle” – Horror story on a relic of Nazi policies.

“The Feed Bag” – Poem of a childhood memory of eating at a diner.

“Flying Over Water” – A child finds th
Nov 02, 2011 Ryandake rated it really liked it
can i be small again, and go stay with ellen klages?

this book is often about childhoods, neither the Dick and Jane variety nor the Hunger Games variety, but a number of not-so-great alternatives in between. the first story is alone worth the cost of the book, as a glorious revenge tale wherein the underdogs do voodoo-ish battle with the overlords (one of the finest lines i've ever seen in this story, told as an aphorism: "egg can't fight a rock.") so if you've had dubious parenting, definitely g
May 10, 2009 Meaghan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I cried in the coffeeshop where I read nearly half of the stories in this collection. I also laughed out loud. Both of these things indicate that Klages is a great writer.

I originally picked up this collection based on my infatuation with Green Glass Sea. These stories, most of which also have child protagonists, are not for children, though; a certain amount of life experience is required to fully grasp what Klages is laying on the table.

Her characters are independent souls. Klages seamlessly
Mar 05, 2011 Neil rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best things I've read in some time, a collection of stories about childhood with tinges of fantasy and magical realism. My favorites included "Basement Magic," a kind of update on the wicked stepmother/fairy godmother story; "Intelligent Design," which has a young God creating the universe; "Time Gypsy," which is a time travel romance recast with lesbian physicists; "Guys Day Out," a tearjerker about a father's relationship with his Downs Syndrome son; and the lovely "Portable ...more
Cathy Green
Aug 12, 2016 Cathy Green rated it it was amazing
The stories in this collection of Ellen Klages' short fiction are hard to categorize - some seem to fit within the umbrella of the new weird, others are dark fantasy, some are more traditional science fiction or fantasy tales, and still others are the sort of fiction one would expect to find in "mainstream" publications such as the New Yorker. However, at the end of the day, who cares what category the stories in Portable Childhoods fall in? All the reader needs to know is that the 16 stories in ...more
Mar 15, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
This is a great collection of short stories that I picked up because Neil Gaiman wrote the introduction. I love the last 2 stories in the book! Actually I loved most of the stories in the book, I think there were only 2 I wasn't totally impressed with.

The last story is 'In The House Of The Seven Librarians' which contains the quote, "She still had all her marbles, though every one of them was a bit odd and rolled asymmetrically." so how could I not love it?
Mar 17, 2012 Alethea rated it really liked it
I checked this out mostly on the basis of having read—and ADORED—In the House of the Seven Librarians. I enjoyed the rest of the stories as well, although ItHotSL was still my favorite. None of the other stories were a waste of time, though, and several—Time Gypsy probably the most notable—were delightful. They are reminiscent of Holly Phillips, though very different in tone and topic; both women share a give for short, shimmering instants.
Nov 05, 2008 Marisa rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Definitely one of the best collections of short stories I've read in a long time, I'm hard pressed to pick just one or two as my favorites.

The stories all touch on some theme of childhood (as the title suggests), but not in a contrived or forced way. According to the author's note, this theme is a favorite of Klages, one she returns to again and again. Definitely worth a read.
Dec 19, 2007 Melody rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Exquisite short stories, most of which are from the point of view of a young girl. Not the same young girl, but very distinct, very real young girls. I adored Klages' YA novel The Green Glass Sea, and I adore these short stories. All are masterfully crafted, some teeter over into breathtaking. Highly recommended even if, like me, you are not particularly a short story fan.
Lettie Prell
Jan 04, 2009 Lettie Prell rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderfully crafted collection of stories. Not a one should have been excluded, and the order in which they appear is perfect. They flow along to their own other-logic, mixing everyday life with odd things, beautifully exotic things, disturbing things. After reading the story, "The Green Glass Sea" I want to savor the novel.
May 17, 2009 Bridget rated it it was amazing
Like Maureen McHugh's Mothers and Other Monsters, Ellen Klages' Portable Childhoods is a collection of short stories in the SF/F vein loosely related to a theme - and they are two of the best short stories collections I've ever read. Klages is a superb writer and her stories capture the essence of the wonder and dangers of childhood so well.
Mar 29, 2011 Denise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Normally, I am not a fan of short stories, but these had a magic to them that I loved. Many of the stories are written from the point of view of children, which Klages captures in a way that makes you believe that you are actually reading the thoughts of children. Very refreshing - I highly recommend this book!
Jan 02, 2008 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Wonderful short story collection from a new writer. Her stories contain fantastic premises but they still seem believable within their own context. Children play main parts, and it's obvious she considers them real human beings who aren't just smaller, dumber versions of adults.
Oct 06, 2007 Deana rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban-fantasy
Great collection of short stories. It was great looking into Klages' mind. Also, the original short story that led to the award winning novel "The Green Glass Sea" is in here. It's hard to say which one is my favorite but they're all a great read.
Jan 11, 2016 Brooke rated it really liked it
I really liked this collection. Several stories would have individually earned a five star rating from me such as Flying Over Water, Time Gypsy, The Green Glass Sea, and In the House of the Seven Librarians. Overall, the stories were tragic and sad, hopeful and charming, hilarious and heartbreaking. I connected with so many of Klages's characters and there wasn't a bad story in the bunch. Fairytales and fables and the horrors of real life collide expertly. I couldn't put this book down once I'd ...more
Jun 10, 2009 Alexis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
A fabulous collection of fantastical and dark short stories, most of them relating to childhood. There's danger, madness and beauty in these pages. Recommended for lovers of Maureen McHugh, Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll.
Oct 05, 2008 Grillables rated it it was amazing
That does it - I'll read anything this lady writes! A wonderful collection of short stories, in varying shades of laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, bittersweet, and sad. Great stuff, full of marvels both magical and mundane.
Mar 24, 2009 Rochelle rated it it was amazing
Wow, I really enjoyed this book! Look, I have found a fiction author that I really like a lot. That hasn't happened in a long time. My favorites were "Time Gypsy" and "In the House of the Seven Librarians."
Jan 12, 2012 Ann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
Freaky, weird and touching all at the same time. Childhood as remembered in the Twilight Zone.

The fact that I read it in Hayward, Wi, where the author was inspired to write it, didn't hurt.
Ben Loory
Jul 17, 2012 Ben Loory rated it really liked it
quiet, clear, often heartbreaking tales about childhood, in a twilight zone-y vein. i will remember "guys day out" most of all. probably for the rest of my life.
I liked the variety in this story collection. There's a lot that crosses over into magical realism. There are interesting twists to the stories.
Oct 04, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is right up my alley. Klage's stories are hilarious, real, emotional, and varied without being weird for weird's sake.
Jan 10, 2008 Kris rated it it was amazing
Loved it. I am really obsessed with amazing short stories lately (especially scifi, although these are really fantasy.)
Samantha Holloway
Nov 25, 2012 Samantha Holloway marked it as to-read
3-20-11: Beautiful. Wonderful. Devastating.
Sep 04, 2009 Sus rated it liked it
These stories are well-crafted, but too often unsurprising.

I liked best "Triangle," "Time Gypsy," "A Taste of Summer," and "Flying Over Water." (Maybe Klages is at her best when she's writing about gawky, dykey women; it is certainly in these contexts that her characters seem to come most uniquely to life.)

"Guys Day Out" made me deeply uncomfortable; I hardly know what to make of it. "Portable Childhoods" is very good, though I think it might fall short of being a story; and, as is also the ca
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Ellen Klages was born in Ohio, and now lives in San Francisco.

Her short fiction has appeared in science fiction and fantasy anthologies and magazines, both online and in print, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Black Gate, and Firebirds Rising. Her story, "Basement Magic," won the Best Novelette Nebula Award in 2005. Several of her other stories have been on the final ballot f
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“She thought for a minute about going back, but decided that maybe being wet on a sort-of adventure was better than being dry and bored for sure.” 3 likes
“I told Pop I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, but he said scientists were men, and I'd just get married.” 0 likes
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