The Stone Boat

By Anthony Holcroft,
illustrated by Leah Palmer Preiss

Tarn Publishing: Christchurch NZ, 2004

ISBN 0476008271

A boy is wakened at night by bright lights in the town cathedral, and the sound of celestial music ... a widow living alone by the sea is terrorised by a supernatural visitant ... two boys on their way to visit a stamp collector arrive at the wrong address and find themselves guests of a mysterious old woman who introduces them to the stamp collection of their dreams ...

In this haunting collection, encounters with otherworldly forces — benign, life-threatening or purely magical — are evoked with a consummate storyteller’s skill.


The Stone Boat
The Scorpions of Rün
The Magic Thread
Dancing Meg
Dreams of a Full-face Queen
The Schuberts of Woodside Creek


The Magic Thread

Once, not so far from here, a girl lived with her grandmother in an old stone house. The child’s parents had died when she was a baby, and Grandmother was now her guardian. Day after day, year after year, the girl sat locked in her small attic bedroom, seeing and speaking to no one, speaking to no one but her grandmother. ‘People are treacherous,’ Grandmother told her. ‘Someone might try to steal you away from me.’

Continue reading “The Magic Thread”

Reader comment

“Holcroft’s writing is inventive and dark, and each tale intrigues from the outset, the reader confident that they will be led to a place worth arriving at. Their mood lingers — in part because of the accomplished writing, but also due to their open-ended nature. Holcroft sees the attraction of the unknown and is unafraid to leave things at that. A stylish production, lovingly designed, that provides excellent material for reading aloud to an older child.”

Susan Paris, Booknotes, New Zealand Book Council, Winter issue (2005)

“Anthony Holcroft is one of our best short-story writers, and his latest book is a supernatural treat ... The stories have some highly evocative writing and combine elements of folk tale and fantasy. My favourite was The Magic Thread, which reads like a newly discovered fairy tale.”

Raymond Huber, Otago Daily Times

“Anthony's concern for the environment creeps into many of his stories as does his sensitivity to human emotions — love, hurt, greed … There’s mystery, enchantment, often a chill, in his writing, a presence benevolent or malevolent. Often, at the end, the reader is left pondering; and over-riding all is the sure touch of a master storyteller. The 2004 The Stone Boat offers seven longish short stories, each capturing the reader with its ghost or a subtle shift in cloud formation or weather pattern, a few words of narrative that suddenly change the atmosphere from sunny to sinister. There’s no option but to read on.”

Jo Noble, lifelong promoter of books for children; Officer of the NZ Order of Merit; services to children's literature, 2003