Featured Story: Backpack Boy

This past weekend was the birthday of Strange Waters!

In case you’re new to the party, or are just returning from a long journey through mines, forests, and mountains to destroy a small but dangerous family heirloom, Strange Waters is an anthology of 9 science fiction and fantasy short stories by the Phoenix Fiction Writers. All of these short stories were inspired by the same cover image:

I love this anthology so much. For months, all of us Phoenix Fiction Writers have labored over our contributions, and together, they will transport you on a beautiful journey through space, time, sea races, and underwater civilizations.

Reviews are starting to roll in, and there has been overwhelming positive feedback—just in case you were concerned about the validity of my very biased opinion 😉

Today, it’s my honor to tell you a bit more about “Backpack Boy,” Nate Philbrick‘s Strange Waters short story.


“Backpack Boy” Synopsis

Pirates have kidnapped Mum and taken her to the cave across the island.
The boy with the red backpack has everything he needs to rescue Mum: a map, a wooden sword, a book about pirate adventures, and a ham sandwich. Most importantly of all, he has his elephant.
But wooden swords and ham sandwiches might not be enough for the boy with the red backpack to face the truth he’s afraid of the most.
And the island starts to crumble…

About Nate Philbrick

Hi! I’m Nate. I write books and drink coffee. The books are clean and the coffee is strong. My stories are about characters who love each other. Adventures aren’t always grand and happy, but where there is loss, hope abounds.


My Review

“Backpack Boy” is one of the most precious, heartwarming, sweet stories I’ve ever read. It’s also one of the most tear-jerking.

As a lover of words, one thing I always appreciate about Philbrick’s writing is how much care clearly goes into every word he writes. That alone would have made this short story a delight to read; but Philbrick’s true talent here is in wrapping a complex, painful, heartbreaking situation in the simplistic language of a young boy trying to make sense of what’s happening to him.

Layered on top of that is a subtle but growing undertone of unease, as Philbrick uses a feather-light touch to create a suspicion that this island is not as it seems.

This short story made me cry many tears—a feat in itself—but the final tears were tears of healing. “Backpack Boy” provides comfort in a world of loss and strengthens the soul to continue living bravely. It’s a story full of love and full of heart.

Just…make sure you have a full box of tissue by you when you read it 😉

Honestly, this story just further cemented Nate Philbrick as one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to read more by him!

Where to Buy Strange Waters

Strange Waters is available at your favorite online booksellers. Click the button below to buy it at the store of your choice.


Have you already read the anthology? Which was your favorite story? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Please share your thoughts :)

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