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Books in Brief: Firefly July, Way of All Fish, Being a Teen


Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems; selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Candlewick Press, 45 pages, $16.99.


This lovely collection of 36 very short poems, arranged by seasons of the year, is the perfect introduction to poetry for young readers, illustrating the power of a few short lines of poetry to magically evoke the most vivid of images.

The book includes the very familiar (William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow,” Carl Sandburg’s “Fog,”), lesser-known poems by Langston Hughes (“Subway Rush Hour”), Emily Dickinson (“The Moon was but a Chin of Gold”) and Sandburg (“Window”) and such marvels as Cid Corman’s “Daybreak Reminds Us” (the first poem in the collection: “Daybreak reminds us/ - the hills have arrived just in/time to celebrate”), X.J. Kennedy’s ‘Open-billed” and Joyce Sidman’s evocative illustrations with unexpected splashes of bright colors are just perfect.

– Jean Westmoore


The Way of All Fish by Martha Grimes; Scribner ($26.99)


Martha Grimes is best known for her novels about British police detective Richard Jury, his aristocratic friend Melrose Plant and other residents of the postcard town of Long Piddleton. Those 22 novels meld the traditional village mystery with the police procedural, giving the plots a hard edge balanced by satire and humor.

Jury and friends are absent in “The Way of All Fish,” Grimes’ 31st novel, but they won’t be missed in this witty satire on the publishing industry. “The Way of All Fish” is a sequel, of sorts, to Grimes’ 2003 novel “Foul Matter,” in which the New York publishing industry is seen as a swamp filled with quicksand and inhabited by piranha. Publishing fares a little bit better in “The Way of All Fish,” but not by much.

L. Bass Hess is the kind of literary agent who slithers onto the scene, suing clients who are smart enough to fire him. Bass wants his commission, whether he sold the book or not. Cindy Sella, who suffers from writer’s block, refuses to settle with him. Her lawyers, however, aren’t doing much good for her. “Lawyers to the right of her, lawyers to the left, lawyers in front, lawyers behind,” observes one character. “Is there a vision of hell, even in Dante, that could possibly compete with that?”

But Cindy has several people willing to help her, including two scrupulous and highly literate hit men named Candy and Karl, a best-selling writer, the owner of a junkyard and a Vegas magician, among others. The plan isn’t to kill Bass, as that would put suspicion on Cindy, but to drive him mad.

Grimes peppers “The Way of All Fish” with bits of pop culture and allusions to classic crime writers, including Raymond Chandler, Dorothy L. Sayers and Edgar Allan Poe.

The wry humor and sharp dialogue enhance the brisk plot that easily moves from New York to the Florida Everglades to a monastery, with a denouement that will make readers want to cheer.

– Oline H. Cogdill, Sun Sentinel


Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More by Jane Fonda; Random House, 238 pages (paperback, $15). Ages 11 and up


Outside Georgia, few may know that Jane Fonda – actress, activist, fitness guru - has been on a mission for several years to educate young people about adolescent sexuality and development, chiefly to address Georgia’s teen pregnancy rate, which was the highest in the nation in 1994.

This simply written, informative, helpful, teen-friendly book draws on her experience as founder of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (now the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential) and with Emory University’s Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, which opened in the year 2000. (All proceeds from this book will go to the two organizations.)

Anyone who saw her sex kitten turn as “Barbarella” may scoff at the notion of Fonda advising teens on this topic, but her book throughout stresses the adolescent as complete, psychologically healthy individual; acknowledges the pressures teens face from peer groups and the media; offers complete information about the facts of life and drives home the point that abstaining from sex is by far the best course, that most kids in high school are not sexually active and the consequences (pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease) that can result from ignorance and acting on impulse. Her tone is not scolding, but matter-of-fact, conversational. It’s a bit like helpful advice from a favorite aunt.

– Jean Westmoore