A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{July 8, 2013}   The Boy who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond

boy who swamPlot: Stanley Potts has lived through much tragedy: he lost his parents, his uncle lost his job and then said uncle went a little mad and turned their house into a fish canning plant. But one day he has enough and runs off to join the fair. He starts off cleaning ducks at the Hook-a-Duck booth but he is an amazing boy with an amazing destiny that will take him into the depths of the piranhas tank.

This review was based on an ARC received at BEA 2013.

I apologize to David Almond, who is a wonderful children’s author, but I picked up this book because it was illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. He is one of my favorite illustrators, though he didn’t believe me when I told him… on the three different occasions I saw him this year. What can I say? I love the guy and his quirky, charming art. Somewhere in New York, a chill just ran down his back. I apologize to him too for being a creepy fan. His pencil illustrations for this novel were everything I’ve come to expect from him. Even his piranhas were adorable.

But though I got it for the illustrations, I quickly got caught up in the story. It is as unusual and whimsical as Jeffers’ drawings. It is downright fishy. The language is fun, full of silly alliteration (Pott’s Perfect Pilchards!) and DAFT (that this is the actually name of their organization should tell you all you need to know about them) villains with the most ridiculous misspellings and mispronunciations. Villains aside, it is also full of endearing characters. But the narrator steals the show in my mind. Most third person narrators don’t make their presence known but this one had real personality, was constantly breaking the third wall and making me burst out laughing.

Well. How can we watch what happens next? How can we read of such dastardly deeds and sinfulness and tragedy?

What could be so awful? You may well ask.

Oh, innocent reader, just do your job and read. Just listen. Just watch. Or close the book and go away. Turn to happier tales. Leave these soon-to-be-doom-laden pages behind. Go quickly.

Otherwise read on. (p. 46)

I also loved how he left the ending and the fate of the villains up to the reader. Sheer brilliance.

Few of us have the courage to jump into a tank of piranhas like Stanley Potts, though we can have a rollicking good time reading about it, but we can all hope to find our calling and to change for the better like the characters in this book.

The Boy who Swam with Piranhas will be released in August 2013.

2013 (#38)


[…] does. (For other great MG novels with great narrators, check out A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas.) The narrator talks directly to the reader right from the start, and with a touch of irony: […]

Tia O'Sullivan says:

This is a really good book i have read it

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