By Karen Valby
Updated March 05, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

In her marvelously strange debut, Tinti welcomes her reader into a world in which zoo animals stage protests, rabbits fly from third-story windows wearing capes, and stuffed black bears stalk the museum muralist. It all sounds rather cute, but there’s terrific beauty and pathos in each of these sharp stories. In the title piece, a former scuba diver describes the deep: ”He said jumping into the ocean after dark is like stepping down into a graveyard…bumping into coffins and bodies, and feeling all of the lost bits and pieces of souls that have seeped into the soil come looking for you.” Fans of Aimee Bender’s dreamy collection ”The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” can find a new friend in Tinti.