Curriculum Vital

    A fun-filled feeding frenzy
    The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas, by David Almond

    Welcome to the fantastical world of Stanley Potts, an ordinary boy in an ordinary town, cared for by his ordinary aunt and uncle. Well, that last part’s not quite accurate. Stan’s uncle was normal until the shipyard closed. Now, as The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas opens, we learn that his mind has gone to sleep with the fishes. To remake the family fortune he becomes a half-mad manufacturer of tinned fish. Pilchards to start with, and then sardines, mackerel and, finally, terribly —

    But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s first meet our intrepid hero, Stan. He’s got the kind heart and bad luck of Oliver Twist mixed with the portentous sensitivity of Harry Potter. His world is part magic, part Dickensian gruffness, brought to life with the clever simplicity of David Almond’s prose and the funny but unobtrusive illustrations of Oliver Jeffers.

    Stan is a little fish in a big pond. When one day he tries to save some sad-looking goldfish at a fairground, his life takes a dramatic turn. Back home, meanwhile, his uncle’s bizarre world of pilchards makes Stan feel like a fish out of water. And there’s worse to come: the family are being hounded by the brutes of DAFT, the 'DEPARTMINT for the ABOLISHUN of Fishy Things,' men who, quite unintentionally, are veritable linguistic geniuses and masters of the pun, yet also utter buffoons and more than a little menacing. "This will come to a nutter and absolute stop," says leader Clarence P. Clapp Esq. of Stan’s uncle’s fish-canning business.

    Out of the frying pan, into the fryer: Stan has no sooner run away from his aunt and uncle than he ends up back at the fairground with his fish 'companions' and becomes an apprentice of the enigmatically-named Dostoyevsky. From humble beginnings as an assistant on the ‘Hook-a-duck’ stall, Stan has the chance to become the big fish of the fairground. Is he brave enough to swim with piranhas? What about his aunt and uncle?

    Nominated for the 2013 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and this year's CILIP Carnegie Medal, The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas is a delightful read for pre-teens. It’s a story of family, silliness and sensibility and the power of a kind heart. You’ll fall for it hook, line and sinker.

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