Strange boys on journeys and the Oliver Jeffers connection

21 Jan

Yesterday, I lazed on the couch and read The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas  by David Almond.

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You should read it too.

It is the story of Stanley Potts,  a boy who leaves home and joins the circus after his uncle commits an act of treachery. He meets eccentric carnival characters , including Pancho Pirelli, the man who swims in a tank full of perilous piranhas. Stanley has an affinity for fish. When Pirelli learns this, he offers to teach Stanley to swim with the piranhas and become a professional performer. Stanley  must decide whether to pursue this option or return to his aunt and uncle. The book is marvelously illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

As I read the book a niggle was niggling my brain. This all  felt a bit familiar. And then I realized why.

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Jeffers also illustrated The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne. This is also a tale of a boy who leaves home on a journey. I wrote about this book on May 18th.Barnaby is a boy who floats and decides he needs to leave home to become the person he was meant to be. I had considered this for my teacher book club last year.

One thing I particularly liked about The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas  was that the US publisher didn’t Americanize the story. This might be a turn off for a small number of readers, but I think most will love the British humor. The book will appeal to readers who like humor,  satire and books in which the bad guys get theirs in the end and each character receives their own kind of redemption. This would be a fun read aloud in a 3-5th classroom.

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