cover image The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas

The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas

David Almond, illus. by Oliver Jeffers. Candlewick, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6169-4

As he did in The Boy Who Climbed to the Moon, Almond strikes a lighter, more whimsical note in the story of orphan Stanley Potts. After Stanley’s guardian, Uncle Ernie, is fired from his job, the man quickly rebounds with “big, big plans” to build a fish cannery in his home. When ambition and greed prompt Uncle Ernie to dip his fingers into Stanley’s bucket of pet goldfish, an infuriated Stanley leaves home and joins a carnival. He is working the hook-a-duck stall when he is discovered by Pancho Pirelli, a man renowned for performing the death-defying act of swimming with piranhas. Pancho, on the verge of retirement, is looking for a replacement, and Stanley might fit the bill. Reinventing oneself can be dangerous, disastrous, or fortuitous, as this proudly silly tale (and Jeffers’s equally blithe spot art) illustrate, and there will always be members of the establishment (in this case, DAFT, the “Departmint for the Abolishun of Fishy Things”) trying to prevent the realization of dreams. Bold, imaginative, and funny, Stanley’s bigger-than-life escapades will tickle imaginations. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)