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

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Overview

Avi charts the turning points in seven young lives in this extraordinary collection of short stories.

In the overlapping years when childhood and adolescence blend and shift like waves and sand, nothing is certain and everything is changing. In this extraordinary collection of stories, Avi, one of the most innovative authors writing for young people today, charts the turning points in the lives of seven protagonists in their restless middle ...
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Overview

Avi charts the turning points in seven young lives in this extraordinary collection of short stories.

In the overlapping years when childhood and adolescence blend and shift like waves and sand, nothing is certain and everything is changing. In this extraordinary collection of stories, Avi, one of the most innovative authors writing for young people today, charts the turning points in the lives of seven protagonists in their restless middle years. Here you will meet, among others, the subject of the title story, who wonders why he shouldn’t ask questions that have no answers — is it because he might discover the truth? You’ll also encounter a "bad" minister’s son who is dared to be good, and a chilling tale of a girl who is haunted by the ghosts of her cats. Always with a surprise built in, an angle unseen, these are stories that step just beyond the edge of the everyday.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sue Reichard
Avi has written a collection of seven portraits of the lives of children in the middle-school years. Through the stories, Avi reveals that at this time of life nothing is certain and everything is changing. The reader will meet seven people whose stories mirror those of so many of today's pre-teens. From a father's departure to a cousin's suicide, Avi gives the reader stories that offer something for all.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8--These short stories affirm the ability of their main characters to choose their fate. In the title story, Willie bravely searches for the cure for unhappiness. It, and the other stories, show readers the resilience and power of kids using their eyes and minds over accepting conventional adult wisdom. In "Pets," Eve comes up with a solution to the ghost cats who want her to join them, even though she is desperately ill. In "Teacher Tamer," Gregory sneaks into the house of his teacher to seek revenge for her persecution of him; instead, he comes to understand her. Whether facing a domineering mother, divorced parents, or a reputation as a bad guy, the protagonists take positive steps forward. It is this constant of taking action, of choosing the halo over the pitchfork, that make these stories inspiring. Some characters are crass and brash; others are introspective and quiet. Danger lurks in guns, ghosts, strangers, and unjust adults. It's a rare treat to be so surprised so consistently in a collection of stories that still adheres to its theme. Unpredictable and fun, these selections stand out for their inventiveness in dealing with difficult issues in a positive way without sacrificing the honest voices of real kids.--Carol A. Edwards, Minneapolis Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763604127
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 11/3/1997
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 196
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 500L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.66 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Avi
Avi is widely recognized as one of the most talented and inventive authors for young readers today. He has received the BOSTON GLOBE-HORN BOOK Award, the Scott O’Dell Award, the Christopher Award, a Newbery Honor, and the Newbery Medal. Avi says that writing a short story "is like trying to light your way through a dark cave with a tiny birthday candle. The flame may be small, but in the darkness, if the writer has done the job, how bright the light!"

Biography

Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Every day at three o'clock Mrs. Markham waited for her son, Willie, to come out of school. They walked home together. If asked why she did it, Mrs. Markham would say, "Parents need to watch their children."

As they left the schoolyard, Mrs. Markham inevitably asked, "How was school?"

Willie would begin to talk, then stop. He was never sure his mother was listening. She seemed preoccupied with her own thoughts. She had been like that ever since his dad had abandoned them six months ago. No one knew where he'd gone. Willie had the feeling that his mother was lost too. It made him feel lonely.

One Monday afternoon, as they approached the apartment building where they lived, she suddenly tugged at him. "Don't look that way," she said.

"Where?"

"At that man over there."

Willie stole a look over his shoulder. A man, whom Willie had never seen before, was sitting on a red plastic milk crate near the curb. His matted, streaky gray hair hung like a ragged curtain over his dirty face. His shoes were torn. Rough hands lay upon his knees. One hand was palm up. No one seemed to pay him any mind. Willie was certain he had never seen a man so utterly alone. It was as if he were some spat-out piece of chewing gum on the pavement.

"What's the matter with him?" Willie asked his mother in a hushed voice.

Keeping her eyes straight ahead, Mrs. Markham said, "He's sick." She pulled Willie around. "Don't stare. It's rude."

"What kind of sick?"

As Mrs. Markham searched for an answer, she began to walk faster. "He's unhappy," shesaid.

"What's he doing?"

"Come on, Willie, you know perfectly well. He's begging."

"Do you think anyone gave him anything?"

"I don't know. Now, come on, don't look."

"Why don't you give him something?"

"We have nothing to spare."

When they got home, Mrs. Markham removed a white cardboard box from the refrigerator. It contained pound cake. Using her thumb as a measure, she carefully cut a half-inch piece of cake and gave it to Willie on a clean plate. The plate lay on a plastic mat decorated with images of roses with diamondlike dewdrops. She also gave him a glass of milk and a folded napkin. She moved slowly.

Willie said, "Can I have a bigger piece of cake?"

Mrs. Markham picked up the cake box and ran a manicured pink fingernail along the nutrition information panel. "A half-inch piece is a portion, and a portion contains the following health requirements. Do you want to hear them?"

"No."

"It's on the box, so you can believe what it says. Scientists study people, then write these things. If you're smart enough you could become a scientist. Like this." Mrs. Markham tapped the box. "It pays well."

Willie ate his cake and drank the milk. When he was done he took care to wipe the crumbs off his face as well as to blot his milk mustache with the napkin. His mother liked him to be neat.

His mother said, "Now go on and do your homework. Carefully. You're in sixth grade. It's important."

Willie gathered up his books that lay on the empty third chair. At the kitchen entrance he paused and looked back at his mother. She was staring sadly at the cake box, but he didn't think she was seeing it. Her unhappiness made him think of the man on the street.

"What KIND of unhappiness do you think he has?" he suddenly asked.

"Who's that?"

"That man."

Mrs. Markham looked puzzled.

"The begging man. The one on the street."

"Oh, could be anything," his mother said, vaguely. "A person can be unhappy for many reasons." She turned to stare out the window as if an answer might be there.

"Is unhappiness a sickness you can cure?"

"I wish you wouldn't ask such questions."

"Why?"

After a moment she said, "Questions that have no answers shouldn't be asked."

"Can I go out?"

"Homework first."

Willie turned to go again.

"Money," Mrs. Markham suddenly said. "Money will cure a lot of unhappiness. That's why that man was begging. A salesman once said to me, 'Maybe you can't buy happiness, but you can rent a lot of it.' You should remember that."

"How much money do we have?"

"Not enough."

"Is that why you're unhappy?"

"Willie, do your homework."

Willie started to ask another question, but decided he would not get an answer. He left the kitchen.
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Table of Contents

What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything? 9
The Goodness of Matt Kaizer 33
Talk to Me 59
Teacher Tamer 91
Pets 119
What's Inside 149
Fortune Cookie 169
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2003

    SIMPLY THE BEST BETTER THAN ALL THE REST

    it is my fav book. i have read it heaps of times and i recomand it to everyone. it is never boring and is entertaining for start to finish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2002

    Super!

    I thought this book was really good. I liked it a lot. It is made up of 6 stories. My fave was Talk to Me. Read it!

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