'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 26 November 2012

Review: The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas

Stanley Potts has no parents. He lives with his Aunt Annie and Uncle Ernie. Uncle Ernie is a little bit of a nutbag and has become obsessed with canning fish.

Much to Stan's horror, the entire house at Fish Quay Lane has been taken over with the clanging of machines and the processing of fish and their eventual canning - homestyle and all.

This fish-canning thing is particularly tough on Stan because he is a fish boy at heart. He has a peculiar affiliation with fish - and when he rescues 13 goldfish from a hook-a-duck stall at the visiting fair - and his Uncle Ernie fries 12 of them up for canning - well, Stan has had enough. He runs away. With the fair.

Stan's adventures with hook-a-duck stall holder Dostoyevsky and his daughter Nitasha are heartfelt and kooky and lots of fun. Stan quickly finds his feet in the fairground world, and enjoys his life on the road with this father and daughter team.

But it's not until the great Piranha-taming Pancho Pirelli comes to town that Stan really finds his true calling.

This is a beautifully-written book featuring classic storytelling, evocative scenes and fabulous, very-Brit language and dialogue that I took much delight in. Its cast of strange characters are a joy to immerse in. The storyline and its subplots are enjoyable but I did find some of the plot thread resolutions a little lacklustre (or missing). Stanley is a sweet character but I would have loved to feel more of a connection with him - at times he just seemed a bit daft.

Overall, however, this is an entertaining and slightly kooky story - and who doesn't love a bit of kooky? Oliver Jeffers ink illustrations are a mega highlight.

Title: The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas
Author: David Almond
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Walker Books, $19.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 November 2012
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9781406320763
For ages: 8 - 13  
Type: Junior Fiction