Portable Childhoods

Ellen Klages

2008 World Fantasy and Crawford Award nominee “Basement Magic”
2001 Nebula Award winner “Flying Over Water”
1999 Nebula and Hugo Award nominee “Time Gypsy”


Portable Childhoods offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies hidden just beyond the ordinary. Described by reviewers as timeless, delightful, chilling, and beautiful, this is short fiction at its best, emerging from a distinctive, powerful voice.


Portable Childhoods

by Ellen Klages

ISBN: 9781892391452

Published: 2007

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and eBooks

Portable Childhoods offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies hidden just beyond the ordinary. Described by reviewers as timeless, delightful, chilling, and beautiful, this is short fiction at its best, emerging from a distinctive, powerful voice.

“Ellen Klages believes books can be magic, and now she’s delivered the proof: this spell-weaving collection of her short stories. There are so many smart, sweet, funny, troubling treats here about so many things—childhood, chefs, God, barber shops, the atomic bomb—that it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. Just read them all! They’re great!”
—Connie Willis

“Klages, whose debut novel, [The] Green Glass Sea (2006), won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, demonstrates both superior writing skill and a wide range in an impressive short-story collection that defies easy categorization. The 16 selections, three of which are original to the volume, include moving mainstream tales of human relationships, like the title story, about a mother and daughter, as well as fantasy and science fiction. The author is equally adept at short, twisty narratives that make the most of premises that could be gimmicks in lesser hands, like the recursive ‘Möbius, Stripped of a Muse.’ This collection will linger in the memory long after reading and should help garner a larger audience for Klages’s forthcoming second novel.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Klages creates wonder-filled and beautiful worlds in her short stories, making this a tremendously satisfying collection.”

“The kind of SF writer that comes along once in a decade…brilliant stories.”
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing.net

“Klages knows that if you can get inside a child’s perspective, it’s all the fantasy you need, and she does it beautifully.”

“Klages’ superb first story collection…strong emotional stories.”
Denver Post

“Consistently well written and emotionally stimulating, the book is one of the loveliest you’ll find.”
School Library Journal Online

“Klages has the true storyteller’s gift of characters and plot. You believe in people from the first moment they appear on the page, and you can’t guess where they are going. If many of the stories in Portable Childhoods are not already classics in the field, they should be.”
—Charles de Lint, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

“Haunting and crystalline…there are 16 reasons why you should inspect Portable Childhoods. Buy it. Read it. Set it down. Then pick it up and read it again!”
Tangent Online

“Highly recommended. I enjoyed each and every story in the collection.”
SF Revu

“Ellen Klages’s work seems as transparent as spring water, but this is a woman who knows that clarity and simplicity can pierce the heart.”
—Peter Straub

“Ellen Klages writes about childhood in brilliant, primary colors. Like Ray Bradbury, her nostalgic stories are like myths.”
—Maureen McHugh

“This delightful collection showcases the best of Klages. Her protagonists are lovable, her prose natural, and her charm evident throughout.”
—Karen Joy Fowler

“Welcome to Planet Klages! These stories are warm, witty, occasionally wise, and always wonderfully written. Ellen Klages is going to be big as big. Buy this book now, read it today, and become her fan forever.”
—Michael Swanwick

“I haven’t been writing prose very long, but I’ve been reading prose long enough to know this—Ellen Klages approaches greatness.”
—Janis Ian

“Ellen Klages writes like a dream—a dream from which you wake up laughing, and that fills the rest of the day with its strangeness and sweetness.”
—Margo Lanagan

“Like childhood, these stories run deep with not-yet-happened nostalgia and fierce yearning for what never was. And, like children, they brim with joy, wonder, and wickedness.”
—Nicola Griffith

“When you surface out of an Ellen Klages story, it’s like arriving home after a long trip: Your kitchen table, your car, your living room are all recognizably yours, but strange, and not half as real as the place you just came from. That place is the real world, and the people in it are as complex, unpredictable, and solid as you. It’s a hard place to come back from.”
—Emma Bull

“Ellen Klages’s stories combine the clear-eyed wonder of an intelligent child with the beautiful, controlled prose of a craftsman. And they have heart. What more could one ask of fiction?”
—Delia Sherman

“Reading any fiction by Ellen Klages, whether it’s set in the basement of a home in Detroit or on the green glass desert sands near Los Alamos or at the favorite fishing spot of a father and his very special son, you are always submerged deep in the rich and strange magic of life.”
—Charles Vess

“Her stories are always a pleasure to read…. Ellen writes from the point of view of a young child like no one else I know.”
—Nalo Hopkinson

“Ellen Klages is the funniest lead civilian collector in science fiction. Maybe the funniest woman, too.”
—Joe Haldeman

Ellen Klages is the author of The Green Glass Sea, for which she received the prestigious Scott O’Dell Award, and its sequel, White Sands, Red Menace, for which she won the California Book Award. She has also won a Nebula Award and been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, Crawford, and Campbell awards. She is member of the Tiptree Motherboard and emcees a popular auction at Wiscon that raises money for the Tiptree Award.

Praise for White Sands, Red Menace

 “Sensitively portrays the early coming-of-age of two likable characters in a unique setting…will leave readers anxious to pick up the preceding work.”

“Superbly written and rich in detail…this book is every bit as powerful as its predecessor.”
School Library Journal

“Klages’s The Green Glass Sea (2006) won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and in this gripping sequel, set just after World War II, science, mechanics, and politics continue to play a big role in the teen friendship story. Dewey’s atomic-scientist dad has died in a traffic accident, and she has moved in with her friend Suze’s family near Los Alamos. Suze’s dad is driven by his work in the new frantic race to build a rocket (‘The first man in space mustn’t be a Russian’), and he fights bitterly with his peacenik wife, Terry, about Hiroshima and the radiation nightmare. There is sometimes too much local detail, but the ground-breaking science is part of daily life for the smart techno-teens, and the adult characters are as compelling as the kids. As Klages said in an interview in the November 2007 issue of Book Links magazine, people are excited about future technology, ‘and others are afraid that there won’t be a future.’ Along with these global issues, Klages’s compelling story explores personal relationships and what it means to be a family.”

Praise for The Green Glass Sea

“Klages makes an impressive debut with an ambitious, meticulously researched novel set during WWII.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“…an intense but accessible page-turner, firmly belongs to the girls and their families; history and story are drawn together with confidence.”
Horn Book, starred review

“Many readers will know as little about the true nature of the project as the girls do, so the gradual revelation of facts is especially effective, while those who already know about Los Alamos’s historical significance will experience the story in a different, but equally powerful, way.”
School Library Journal

“The story is [a memoir of the life of the small daughter of an atomic scientist, who recounts the events leading up to and following Trinity] in heartbreaking Klages style:, simple, subtle, emotionally powerful writing that will knock you on your ass again and again as you read it…. If you haven’t read Klages before, you’re in for a treat.”
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing.net

“Ellen Klages is a very careful writer—which is to say that she is full of care for her craft and allows her readers the intelligence to take care of themselves. To take care, for instance, of the differences and resonances and contingencies between reality and fantasy, between real life and fairy tale; and to take care of what one can say to and about the other.”
ED SF Project

“Klages gives us sympathetic characters and slow-building suspense in an absorbing novel with a unique view of wartime.”
Newhouse News Service

“This beautifully told and historically accurate story makes you feel what it would be like to be a kid in this surreal, secretive world of scientists, mathematicians, and their families.”
Not Your Mother’s Book Club

Visit the Ellen Klages website.

Introduction by Neil Gaiman

“A Taste of Summer”
“Basement Magic”
“Be Prepared”
“Clip Art”
“Flying Over Water”
“Guys Day Out”
“In the House of the Seven Libraries”
“Intelligent Design”
“Möbius, Stripped of a Muse”
“Portable Childhoods”
“Ringing Up Baby”
“The Feed Bag”
“The GreenGlass Sea”
“Time Gypsy”
“Travel Agency”

Other books by this author…