on 14 November 2012
Absolutely delighted to discover a new author, who's written a number of books that I can look out for - and even better, its not one who I read myself when I were young but something modern and new. How many times have i grabbed a book that i recognised from my childhood and thrust it in front of my daughter saying 'you'll love this one' only to realise that it was not as good as I remembered or not as resonant as you'd want to today's children..
This book works on so many levels, the language is fantastic, the story is great, there are good values and messages in there and it's funny. I am seriously impressed. I read it myself, which i occasionally feel the need to do with my 7 year old's reading, and genuinely loved it. I'm thinking about recommending it to my book group! can't wait to go back to the older ones now.
Trying to persuade my 5 yr old to dress up as Stan for world book day (in November) but no luck yet!
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. The narrator invites the reader in to the story and almost invites the reader to help imagine and shape the story.
But this is all too heavy, so consider this. Stan is a good-hearted, gentle, steadfast, generous and perceptive hero who has a wonderful adventure in a world populated by a wide range of fascinating characters. His story is exciting, amusing, wild and colorful. This is a rewarding effort, and worth a try. How's that?
Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
on 17 January 2013
I'll be honest, I bought this book because it had Oliver Jeffers illustrations but I'm so glad I did as both me & my 7 year old son loved it. We read it in instalments over a week and each night my son would be hanging off his bed desperate to hear more. Beautifully written & a magical story, my son went to sleep tonight chatting about swimming with piranha's....brilliant!
on 14 January 2014
I enjoy David Almond very much and while I've only read a handful of his books to date; I've found them to share themes of death/grief and either father/mother to child relationship. So I looked forward to this one though I hadn't heard anything about it beforehand. The book is much lighter than the previous books I've read by the author and while I still find the same themes present it is only in a smaller way. The book starts with a boy being orphaned quite horrifically and then going to live with an aunt and uncle who, obviously love him, but he's treated with neglect and the uncle is near abusive. This is all kept in a high over the top humorous manner with the entrance of the DAFT Squad who investigates all suspicious goings on. The second half of the book has Stanley running off with the circus, an age-old dream of childhood. (though I think it went out with not Almond's but perhaps my own generation). The story is hilarious and like all of Almond's works, very British. Candlewick publishes the US editions but they don't Americanize the text, so you get a very big dose of crazy, off the wall British humour. While the book holds many characters, Stanley is the one the reader gets to know the best and watching out for his welfare and caring about what happens to him enhances the reading experience. The bad guys get theirs in the end and each character receives their own kind of redemption for a satisfying and (funny) ending.
on 23 July 2014
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.
on 10 September 2014
Brill, we all loved this book. Great story, with some really interesting story telling techniques which don't appear often in children's books. We enjoyed discussing how the author talked about the story in the story and loved that the hero did amazing things in the end. Great cliffhangers at the end of each chapter which left the kids begging for more. ;-)