Saturday, March 15, 2008


Once when I was in high school, a group of guys who had been talking about cars for a while turned to me and politely attempted to include me in the conversation. "What kind of car would you get, Jeanne?" they asked. "A Firebird," I replied, with little hesitation. There was a stir in the group, surprise that I had a ready answer, and such a good one. A little later, they found out that I knew of a symphony called the Firebird and liked the image (this was well before Fawkes popularized his species). But I will always treasure my memory of the momentary admiration in their eyes.

A few years ago, my daughter brought home a collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction stories in a collection entitled Firebirds. I was predisposed to like it, of course, but it's a truly wonderful collection, especially for the novice reader. It's heavy on Fantasy and very light on Science Fiction. There are a couple of fairy stories, Cotillion and Byndley. There's a very unusual story entitled Mariposa, by Nancy Springer. We like Beauty by Sherwood Smith, Hope Chest by Garth Nix, Little Dot by Diana Wynne Jones, Remember Me by Nancy Farmer, and Flotsam by Nina Kiriki Hoffman.

The standout story, however is by Megan Whalen Turner and entitled The Baby in the Night Deposit Box. In it, a small town bank that had just put up a billboard advertising "your treasure will be safe with us" gets a baby in their night deposit box with a rattle, a teething ring, and a note that says "Our treasure, please keep her safe." They take care of the baby, who turns out to be a girl, and keep her safe from the world outside the bank, including a woman from Child Protective Services who keeps attempting to take her away. At one of her court hearings, the girl (now called Penny, short for Precious Treasure) tells the Judge that the night watchman's wife helps her when she feels afraid of shadows in the night:

"She said they were just shadows and that shadows all by themselves couldn't hurt anyone. I didn't have to be afraid. I just had to pretend that they were the shadows of bunnies. That any shadow, if you look at it right, could be the shadow of a bunny. She said I should take my rattle, because I always have my rattle with me, and my ring." She held up her arm to show the teething ring that now sat like a bracelet around her wrist. "She said I should point my rattle at the shadows and say 'You're a bunny,' and then I won't be afraid anymore."

When Penny is eighteen, she leaves the bank to rescue her royal (of course) parents from a wicked usurper with lots of minions that cast scary shadows. Naturally, she does what she has been taught:

"No--" shrieked the enchantress. "No--"
"You," Penny said firmly, "are a bunny."

Like my answer to the car question, the ending of the story is not what the reader might have expected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jeanne, I enjoyed the story about the baby. She got to save her parents herself, without needing to marry a prince first. I'm trying to imagine, though, a house full of bunnies at night--what a mess they would make.