Review: The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond


A boy escapes home to seek his own way in the world in a whimsical new outing by the award-winning David Almond, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

Stanley Potts’s uncle Ernie has developed an over-the-top fascination with canning fish in the house, and life at 69 Fish Quay Lane has turned barmy. But there’s darkness in the madness, and when Uncle Ernie’s obsession takes an unexpectedly cruel turn, Stan has no choice but to leave. As he journeys away from the life he’s always known, he mingles with a carnival full of eccentric characters and meets the legendary Pancho Pirelli, the man who swims in a tank full of perilous piranhas. Will Stan be bold enough to dive in the churning waters himself and choose his own destiny?


I spotted a lovely hardback copy of this book in the sale at my local bookshop and I couldn’t resist buying a cheap copy of such a lovely looking book.  I’d heard great things about it and was quite pleased with my bargain buy.

The Boy who Swam with Piranhas is a very sweet tale about a boy called Stanley Potts that runs away to join a travelling circus and meets some marvellous characters along the way.  He soon is spotted by the famous Pancho Pirelli and is taken under his wing and trained to dive in a tank with piranhas.  Whilst Stanley is having his circus adventure, his aunt and uncle (his legal guardians) are out looking for him to make amends for all that went wrong that led to his leaving.

It’s a classic tale, in that we see a quiet but noble lad that flees his home to try and find a new life full of adventure and excitement.  It’s the dream we all had as a small child; to run away to the circus where we’d be appreciated for our talents and charm.  What I found most heart-warming about this book is it’s sense of humour and delicate touch with emotion.  It’s a sad story that is full of hope as well as the gorgeous artwork of Oliver Jeffers (who I’d heard of but never actually read a book with his work in before).

My favourite characters were the fishy business squad and their marvellous leader, Clarence P. Clapp, who was comedy gold in my eyes.  He was a slight loon but had such conviction about his beliefs too.

A beautiful modern fairy tale that is just as gorgeous to look at as to read.

Published by Walker Books and is available in bookshops and online now

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