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The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas


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*Starred Review* Dahl meets J. K., flavoured 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 recognises 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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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