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The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond



This story is told in three parts: life for protagonist Stan after his uncle is made redundant when the ship-building industry dies, Stan running away with the circus and Stan becoming the one who swims with the piranhas. There are sub-plots:  the story of Nitasha’s mother and Aunt Annie’s and Uncle Ernie’s return to normality.  

This is a humorous novel but it has its darker sides:  Stan having lost his parents before the story begins, the poverty after the ship-building collapse, the hard graft the family have to put into run their fish-canning business, the change in personality that this causes in Uncle Stan, the ridiculousness and eeriness of the DAFT organisation that seeks to shut down the canning business and the poverty of the circus folk. This is however, all mitigated by the love that young Stan finds everywhere he goes. 

David Almond writes as an omniscient author here though often gets very close to his characters.  He often intervenes in the text  e.g. “Of course there’s never really a proper end.  The people who’ve lived through this tale will live through many more.  But we have to come to a halt somewhere and this is it” (p243). 

The book is 246 pages long. It has blocked text that is double-spaced. It uses a serif but very clear font. There are many quirky illustrations.   


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Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales

2017, fluent reader, Key Stage 2, ages 9-11, upper primary
Here are some familiar fairy stories though the titles may fool you: Rapunzel becomes The Tower and the Bird, Rumpelstiltskin becomesStraw into Gold, and Cinderella is Roses Around the Palace. We are also offered some rather interesting details about some well-known stories. The mayor of the town with the rats tells us how the children who replaced the lost ones were much more amenable than the ones who were piped away. A young girl has a sliver of the looking-glass that once belonged to a wicked queen.Whilst the girl has chickenpox her grandmother tells her Snow White’s story. It is true she assures her granddaughter. How does she know? Because she is Snow White. Hansel and Gretel tell the story of what they did in their holidays.
There is perhaps an assumption that the reader will be familiar with the original stories. Certainly they are amusing and not just for the young reader.Adults can enjoy them too. 
This is quite a …