cover image What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?: And Other Stories

What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?: And Other Stories

Avi. Candlewick Press (MA), $16.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0329-8

Avi (City of Light, City of Dark) is in top form constructing these seven surprising stories. Seemingly ordinary events (offering a handout, getting a series of hang-ups on the telephone, eating Chinese food) take unexpected turns, leading Avi's middle-school heroes and heroines (and readers) to profound, often disturbing truths. Will, the protagonist of the title story, gains insight into his newly separated mother's unhappiness after talking with a philosophical beggar outside his apartment building. In ""Talk to Me,"" Maria O'Sullivan comes to grips with the disappearance of her brother, who left home at 16, during a series of one-sided conversations with a mysterious, silent caller. Parker, the narrator of ""Fortune Cookie,"" thinks his birthday ""belongs to [him], like writing your own fortune cookie,"" and, for a present, asks his recently divorced parents if they will both take him to dinner. The outing proves disastrous, but he leaves the restaurant with a clearer understanding of his feelings about his mother, father and himself. Each of the selections, characterized by a sharp and often dark ironic twist, is like a carefully packaged parcel. The process of unwrapping its layers is almost as exciting as finding the pearl of wisdom inside. Ages 10-14. (Nov.)