Xiaolong’s Favourite Reads of 2018!

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With the year drawing to a close, you’re feeling a little anxious but excited about what the new year will bring. You remember Xiaolong asking you to visit her near the year’s end. And so that’s where you are off to today.

XL faves copy.png“Hi friend!” greets Xiaolong, when you enter the Pond. “It’s always good to see you. Today I have some books to share with you today – my favourite books of this year!” She holds up the stack of books in her hands up to you, showing you their shiny spines. “I read so many good books this year, but I think these ones are my top eight books.”

You sit down next to her, and ask her what her favourites are. “I’ll tell you, but after you have to tell me what your favourites are too, okay?”

She takes a seat too, picks up the first book, and begins: “So, one of my favourite books was…”

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A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman – Asian Diaspora Authors Re-imagine Their Favourite Folktales

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wrapped up in a fluffy green blanket while reading a book, with her purple hat peeking out under the blanket.The last time you visited the Pond, Xiaolong was under her blanket, her eyes glued to the book she was reading. (It looked like she hadn’t gotten out of bed yet!) “Friend, you know I always love talking to you but I’m reading this really, really good book right now and I want to finish this book so I can tell you all about it. Come back later?”

Ah yes, you understand that feeling of a good book all too well. A few days have indeed passed now, and you find yourself pretty excited to hear what Xiaolong has to say about her latest read.

However, when you find Xiaolong, paper and books are at by feet, and she looks like she is hard at work looking for something. When she hears you approach, she smiles her big smile, but she doesn’t look excited, like she normally does. Instead, she looks like she’s thinking about something from a long, long time ago.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing an upside-down purple flower hat, sitting on the ground with papers and books around her. “Hi friend,” she says in an unusually quiet voice when you sit down across from her. “I finally finished the book. And I loved it! But, it got me thinking a lot about where I come from.” She pauses. When you look a little bit closer at the papers scattered around her, you see illustrations of axolotls, runes, and long paragraphs in tiny print. “I’d like to tell you about it one day, but maybe not today, because you’re here to listen about my new book, right?”

And when you nod, her eyes light up, her big grin is back, and she jumps to her feet. Although you can’t wait to hear about this book, you can’t help but feel a little curious about Xiaolong’s past. Maybe she will tell you one day if you continue visiting.

“So!” she begins, hugging the book to her chest. “This is an anthology, and it’s called A Thousand Beginnings and Endings…”

Text: A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS edited by Ellen Oh, Elsie Chapman.


Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish.

My review:

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of fifteen short stories inspired by Asian mythology and folklore, retold and reimagined by diasporic Asian authors. From Chinese to Filipino to Punjabi, the anthology is diverse in itself – from the cultures and mythologies represented, the genres ranging from science-fiction, fantasy, and contemporary, to the themes explored – and all are told from the author’s distinct voice and perspective.

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Book Recommendations: Diverse Anthologies!

Gen the green toad, wearing a big rainbow costume, cloud sleeves, and a rainbow skirt. Text says: BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS, Diverse Anthologies

Since finding the Pond, you realise that you haven’t really had the opportunity to talk to Varian the Toadshifter yet. Last you saw them, they were busy sewing away and didn’t look like they had much time to talk. “Varian wants to get better at making costumes,” Xiaolong says when you ask her about them. “Sewing is their favourite kind of magic, especially when they see other people love what they create.”

And so you approach Varian, who doesn’t look as busy as before. In fact, they seem to be having tea!

Varian the Toadshifter drinking tea, holding a teacup to his mouth.“Hello friend, it’s good to finally meet you,” Varian says when you near. “Xiaolong talks about you non-stop, so I was looking forward to meeting you. Would you like some tea?” Before you can answer, Varian mutters a few magical words, and the teapot levitates and pours you a cup full of tea. “As you may know, my name is Varian, I use they/them pronouns, and I am a Toadshifter.”

You ask Varian what a Toadshifter is, and what they do. Varian takes a long sip, mulling over your question. “You see, Toadshifting is a delicate art, one that requires centuries-” centuries?! “-of study and mastery of various magical or physical arts so we can fluidly move from, say, a paladin of light to a necromancer. My hundreds of siblings and family have thus endeavoured to become masters of all crafts, but I was never satisfied with that.”

Varian the Toadshifter, with a hand over his heart, with a staff, shield, sword, and bow around him. A sewing needle and thread is above his head, lit up for emphasis.Varian puts down their tea, and looks at you with a bemused smile. “I was a good toad though, and I studied. But I later learned that my calling was creation; not emulating the arts of old, but creating something tangible and new. You can imagine the sort of drama this sort caused when I told them so. It was all, ‘Varian, we are Toadshifters! Toadshifters uphold the magical arts by learning and imitating! Not by creating something new!’ And so I left, not on unpleasant terms mind you, I just wanted to pursue my calling in peace. Xiaolong and the Pond gave me a new home, a place where I can create but also pass on my knowledge accrued from my education as a Toadshifter.”

“It was Gen, actually, who suggested that I pursue sewing-magic. The idea that I can pay homage to the magic that already exists by creating something new, something of my own creation, and has the potential to inspire others to be the best and most true versions of themselves? That sounded like a fine calling to me. Thus, that is my purpose as a Toadshifter.”

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, squishing her cheeks in excitement!You nod slowly. You notice that Xiaolong had plopped herself next to you sometime during Varian’s story, and she smiles up at you. “Isn’t Varian the coolest?!” she asks. Yes! you say. Varian is very cool.

“Now,” Varian says, rising from their spot. “I’ve just finished putting together my first costume and I quite like how it turned out. Would you like to see it?” Of course, you say, you’d love to see it! (Xiaolong, meanwhile, is bursting with energy and excitement!)

Varian hops behind a big rock, and you notice their legs are a little wobbly – it looks like Varian is a little nervous to show you. But, when Varian emerges, they don’t look like a toad at all – they look like a rainbow!

“It’s a little simple, and I’m still trying to improve,” they say, adjusting their rainbow costume. The stitching is a little uneven and the fabric doesn’t seem entirely aligned, but you can tell that Varian put a lot of love into their costume. “But I just need to be patient with myself and I’ll get better with time.” Right! you tell them with, what you hope to be, an encouraging smile.

“Also, I thought what I’d do is share the inspiration of my costume. I think sharing things that inspire us is a powerful sort of magic, don’t you think?”

Welcome back to the Pond, friends, and welcome to the Pond’s first book recommendation post. I hope you all are having a lovely day so far and are reading some wonderful books!

One of the things that I loved doing in my old blog was to write book recommendation posts. So I decided to add a twist at The Quiet Pond: Varian, the Pond’s Toadshifter, will be at the forefront of the book recommendation posts! As you might remember from the Meet the Inhabitants post, Varian has a lot of knowledge of all things books and magic and is currently learning how to sew. Now, you know a little bit more about Varian’s story and why they do what they’re doing! (Varian is still very new to making costumes, so be sure to watch how they improve over time!)

Today, Varian is going to share with you four anthologies filled with diverse stories. Read More »