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The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas Hardcover – August 6, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-7-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, NYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Dahl meets J. K., flavored with a soupçon of Choose Your Own Adventure, but in the end, this novel is all pure, sweet Almond. Stanley Potts has lost his parents, but his Aunt Annie and Uncle Ernest have ably stepped in. Then Uncle Ernest goes fish crazy, making a fortune by canning fish in the living room. Stanley is on board until his beloved goldfish get tinned, and he takes off. After joining a carnival, he lives with Mr. Doestesky, the hook-a-duck operator, and his daughter, Nitasha, who has been abandoned by her mother and wishes to become the world’s ugliest, fattest bearded lady. Stanley seems an ordinary boy, but those who come in contact with him sense his purity and goodness. So, when Pancho Pirelli appears to perform his great act in which he swims in a tank of piranhas, it’s no surprise that he recognizes Stanley as his successor. As with most everything Almond writes, there is the story on paper and then all that churns over and around it. This is as much a meditation on chance, choice, and destiny, as it is a frolicsome tale of a boy who runs away for a circuslike life. In the subtlest ways possible, Almond masterfully makes young readers understand this, and they will be delighted that life lessons can be administered so deliciously. Simple pencil drawings illustrate. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Almond is one of the finest writers for young people working today, which makes anything he writes something to look forward to. Grades 4-6. --Ilene Cooper

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 550L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763661694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763661694
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Holli H. on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read this book aloud with my 4th grader and it was perfect. (Yes, we still read books together and it's great fun!)

I had seen this book reviewed somewhere and put it on the must-read list. It hasn't disappointed me, or my son, who loves anything to do with fish, fantasy, adventure, quirky characters, kids trying something unknown, kids trying to escape some situation, adults attempting to teach kids a lesson, etc.

The quirkiness of the characters comes out along with their unique use of the English language...or the characters' attempt at simply incorporating phrases and cliches in their everyday speech that, well, show that they're not a high-brow crowd. I found that usage putting a smile on my face since it was clever and my son understood most of it, or it created a great discussion with him about a cliche or phrase that he wasn't familiar with...but is now thanks to this book!

The fantasy elements are well described and believable. Even though the chapter endings didn't seem like serious cliff hangers at all, my son was eager for us to continue reading this book every single time we had to put it down. Compact, short chapters helped us read a lot in a little time which was rewarding while reading aloud.

If this book is a movie script masquerading as a book, I know we would enjoy seeing the movie too!

Bottom line, I think most kids who enjoy quirky stories (isn't that most of 'em?) will enjoy this book. And, adults that like a little out-of-the-ordinary dialogue to spice things up will enjoy reading this aloud to their kids.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Young Mensan BookParade on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas, written by David Almond, is a fantastic tale about a boy whose uncle decides to turn his house, which the young protagonist, Stanley Potts, lives in, into a fish canning factory. The boy runs away to a circus where he finds his destiny, and happiness, at a hook-a-duck stall. My favorite part is when Stanley jumps into the piranha tank, which he survives. My favorite character is Stanley Potts. This is a fiction book for children ages 8-13 and it is funny, good and simple, and l rate this marvelous story 5 out of 5 stars.
Review by Luke N., age 10, Greater Los Angeles Area Mensa
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pop Bop TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
David Almond writes very interesting and memorable books. His children's literature debut, "Skellig", was a low key but compelling meditation on life, friendship, love and having the boldness to spread one's wings and fly. This book touches on the same issues, but it seems aimed for a slightly younger crowd, and is filled with more antic humor and knock-about action.

But, because Almond's work always has a suggestion of the melancholy and gothic to it, and because his books cut very close to important questions of life and living, and because Almond is willing to take children right up to the edge of tragedy without warning or preface, I'm always a little anxious about where one of his books is going to take me. Hence the SPOILER. Relax, nothing bad happens. Dramatic for Stan, yes. Life transforming for Stan, definitely. Destiny altering for Stan, of course. But as much as it feels like it's just around the corner, Godzilla never actually squashes Bambi. That's a good thing.

Even a cursory review of the blurbs, professional reviews, and reader comments will lead to a list of descriptions along these lines: quirky, strange, fanciful, weird, magical, intriguing, odd, challenging, quirky (again), odd (again), and challenging. I suppose that's true enough. I would describe it this way - the narrator of this book is very intrusive and chatty. There are a number of meta events in which the narrator inquires of the reader how he would like the story to develop. The narrator/Almond/author is playful - with the reader, with the story, with Stan, and with the idea of a book. But, this is not condescending or patronizing, and it is not the precious cleverness you get when some writers try this approach. The narrator's voice here is congenial and almost conspiratorial.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TeacherReader on August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
After Stanley's uncle makes life unbearable and commits the ultimate betrayal, young Stan has no choice but to leave home. When Stanley is swept up by the carnival he discovers new ways of living, mysterious happenings, and a tank full of piranhas. Now Stan must search inside himself for his true destiny.

Three adjectives that describe this book: intriguing, fanciful, strange

After reading quite a few gushing reviews of this book, I feel kind of bad about finding it to be so meh. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas, but there were a few annoying flaws and I'm not sure it will grab middle grade readers - the intended audience.

Other reviewers have compared the style of this novel to Roald Dahl's work. These comparisons are totally appropriate. It reminded me of some of his shorter works such as George's Marvelous Medicine. Overall the plot was fun and the main character, Stan, was endearing and well-written. This book is quirky. For people who like quirky - this is the book for you! While reading, I just kept thinking how much it felt like a movie. The epic amount of narration made me think that David Almond was actually writing this novel as a script in some ways.

And therein lies the problem.

In the first two-thirds of the novel, Almond's use of author intrusions was quaint and felt right for the tone of the story. Think Lemony Snicket in
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