Green Monkey Dreams by Isobelle Carmody
Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 9781742379470. 305pp.
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Isobelle Carmody appeared at the 2012 Byron Bay Writer's Festival and was described by blogger Michelle Sim as having 'a sparkle about her; a twinkle in her eye, as though she has knows a powerful secret. With wild, raven black hair and small elfin like features, you could actually imagine Carmody stepping straight out of one of her fantasy books.' (http://byronbaywritersfestival.wordpress.com/) This seems entirely in keeping with an author who explores the intersection of fantasy and reality. The title story, Green Monkey Dreams suggests that the same recurring dreams amongst disparate people may be indicative of another reality striving to enter this one. In The Keystone, Raven, the brave heroine, decides to disappear through a tear or rift in the fabric of the universe to help others in need.
This collection of short stories was first published in 1996 and is made up of stories originally published elsewhere. This is the third edition; they are so vivid and haunting that they invite revisiting and rethinking. The meaning of truth and death as contemplated by children are underlying themes.
Many of the stories vividly demonstrate the power of fantasy and story in neglected lives. In The Phoenix two isolated children live in a fantasy world where they assume noble roles. A stranger arrives and he enters into their fantasy, but is he genuine? The shocking ending here makes this an unforgettable story. A foundling from an orphanage, in Seek No More uses his belief in his special powers to stand up to bullies and gain himself a family.
Sacrifice, hope and courage feature in apocalyptic stories such as Glory Days where Rian is sent to spy on Angel, a despotic ruler of a city state who has weapons of mass destruction stockpiled. He plans to use them, as he believes suffering is a necessary precursor for spiritual salvation. But Rian falls in love with Angel and then has a momentous decision to make. In The Lemming Factor the story of the Pied Piper becomes the story of Kora and her family following a hypnotic leader to the Promised Land, Evermore. But Kora chooses to help the handicapped with unexpected consequences.
Delightful feminist twists feature The Pumpkin Eater and The Red Shoes where the former extends the story of Rapunzel and the latter is a modern version of the Andersen Fairy Tale.
Dark themes exploring dysfunctional families, the lost innocence of youth and the effects of poverty, as in The Monster Game,Corfu, and The Witch Seed and the ambiguity of some endings make this collection more suitable for upper secondary.