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The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas



by
David Almond
illustrated by
Oliver Jeffers

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Candlewick
Imprint
Candlewick
ISBN
9780763661694
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None
$6.00   $5.00
SEE MEMBER PRICE
QTY
Out of stock

When working in his uncle’s fish-packing operation turns barmy, Stan joins a carnival and learns his fate—to swim with piranhas, like the great Pancho Pirelli. Black-and-white mixed-media illustrations.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

256

Trim Size

5 1/16" 7 13/16"

Dewey

F

AR

3.7: points 5

Lexile

550L

Genre

Fiction

Scholastic Reading Counts

9

JLG Release

Oct 2013

Book Genres


Topics

Family life. Fate. Friendship. Mentors. Carnivals and fairs. Carnival games. Sideshows.

Standard MARC Records

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Cover Art

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist*, The Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus Reviews*, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal

Junior Library Guild

  • A charming novel filled with wit, adventure, and unusual circumstances.
  • The characters are intriguing. Stan is relatively ordinary, yet makes daring choices, such as joining the carnival. In his new friend Nitasha’s convincing dialogue, it’s clear that she is simultaneously very angry with, and in awe of, her lovely mother, a ballerina who has left the family.
  • Darker events in the story touch on issues of prejudice and poverty. For instance, the police treat the carnival workers poorly: “I know all you ragamuffin fairground folk traipsing and wandering across the world and leaving all kinds of bother in your wake.”
  • Oliver Jeffers’s simple, evocative drawings complement the story, giving the reader a look at each primary figure, as well as landscapes of the shipping town and the fairground.

School Library Journal

When Stanley Potts’s Uncle Ernie takes his fish-canning business in a new, inhumane direction, the orphaned boy decides to leave the home his relatives made for him and join a traveling carnival of Gypsies. With the guidance of the hook-a-duck booth proprietor Dostoyevsky, Stan finds success tending the goldfish prizes and forms a tentative friendship with the boss’s prickly daughter, Nitasha, who broods over the desertion of her ballerina mother. Big news is the arrival of famous Pancho Pirelli, who swims in a tank with piranhas. Pirelli is convinced that Stan is destined to be his successor and sets about teaching him to dive, to overcome fear, and to find faith in himself. Meanwhile, as Stan settles into his new life, back home Uncle Ernie and Aunt Annie are distraught over his disappearance and plagued by DAFT, the Departmint for the Abolishun of Fishy Things. Setting out to find him, they unintentionally lead DAFT to the carnival, where mayhem ensues. Master storyteller Almond combines delicious wordplay, zany antics, wacky characters, and a bit of magical realism in a novel that touches the heart. Quick-paced, accessible, and enhanced by stylized cartoonlike drawings, this book is sure to be enjoyed by fans of humorous, quirky stories.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Horn Book

Stanley Potts just can’t seem to catch a break. After his dad dies in an accident and his mum dies of a broken heart, Stan goes to live with his aunt and uncle. Uncle Ernie loses his job at the shipyard, decides to start his own business canning sardines, and expects Stan to become as obsessed with the business as he is. Pushed to the breaking point, Stan runs away with a carnival, where he meets an odd assortment of characters. None, however, is quite as mysterious as the legendary Pancho Pirelli, the man who performs the death-defying act of swimming in a tank full of piranhas. Pirelli recognizes a kindred spirit in Stan and takes him under his wing, grooming him to become his sidekick and successor. Almond ventures far afield from the almost hallucinatory magical realism that characterized his earliest work, offering up some lighthearted fare for a younger audience. This book, complete with old-fashioned intrusive narrator and numerous spot illustrations, seems to have more in common with the work of Roald Dahl or Frank Cottrell Boyce; yet the silliness is tempered by an unsentimental, clear-eyed wisdom, marking it unmistakably as the work of Almond. JONATHAN HUNT

Praise & Reviews

Junior Library Guild

  • A charming novel filled with wit, adventure, and unusual circumstances.
  • The characters are intriguing. Stan is relatively ordinary, yet makes daring choices, such as joining the carnival. In his new friend Nitasha’s convincing dialogue, it’s clear that she is simultaneously very angry with, and in awe of, her lovely mother, a ballerina who has left the family.
  • Darker events in the story touch on issues of prejudice and poverty. For instance, the police treat the carnival workers poorly: “I know all you ragamuffin fairground folk traipsing and wandering across the world and leaving all kinds of bother in your wake.”
  • Oliver Jeffers’s simple, evocative drawings complement the story, giving the reader a look at each primary figure, as well as landscapes of the shipping town and the fairground.

School Library Journal

When Stanley Potts’s Uncle Ernie takes his fish-canning business in a new, inhumane direction, the orphaned boy decides to leave the home his relatives made for him and join a traveling carnival of Gypsies. With the guidance of the hook-a-duck booth proprietor Dostoyevsky, Stan finds success tending the goldfish prizes and forms a tentative friendship with the boss’s prickly daughter, Nitasha, who broods over the desertion of her ballerina mother. Big news is the arrival of famous Pancho Pirelli, who swims in a tank with piranhas. Pirelli is convinced that Stan is destined to be his successor and sets about teaching him to dive, to overcome fear, and to find faith in himself. Meanwhile, as Stan settles into his new life, back home Uncle Ernie and Aunt Annie are distraught over his disappearance and plagued by DAFT, the Departmint for the Abolishun of Fishy Things. Setting out to find him, they unintentionally lead DAFT to the carnival, where mayhem ensues. Master storyteller Almond combines delicious wordplay, zany antics, wacky characters, and a bit of magical realism in a novel that touches the heart. Quick-paced, accessible, and enhanced by stylized cartoonlike drawings, this book is sure to be enjoyed by fans of humorous, quirky stories.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Horn Book

Stanley Potts just can’t seem to catch a break. After his dad dies in an accident and his mum dies of a broken heart, Stan goes to live with his aunt and uncle. Uncle Ernie loses his job at the shipyard, decides to start his own business canning sardines, and expects Stan to become as obsessed with the business as he is. Pushed to the breaking point, Stan runs away with a carnival, where he meets an odd assortment of characters. None, however, is quite as mysterious as the legendary Pancho Pirelli, the man who performs the death-defying act of swimming in a tank full of piranhas. Pirelli recognizes a kindred spirit in Stan and takes him under his wing, grooming him to become his sidekick and successor. Almond ventures far afield from the almost hallucinatory magical realism that characterized his earliest work, offering up some lighthearted fare for a younger audience. This book, complete with old-fashioned intrusive narrator and numerous spot illustrations, seems to have more in common with the work of Roald Dahl or Frank Cottrell Boyce; yet the silliness is tempered by an unsentimental, clear-eyed wisdom, marking it unmistakably as the work of Almond. JONATHAN HUNT

Grades 3-5
Intermediate Readers
For Grades 3-5

A wide variety of novels and accessible nonfiction for younger elementary readers who love a good story comprise this category of 12 books per year. The focus in these titles is primarily on the text, though some novels may feature illustration.

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