Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Dahl meets J. K., flavored 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 recognizes 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. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

After his parents' deaths, Stanley Potts runs away with a carnival. He meets Pancho Pirelli, who performs the death-defying act of swimming with piranhas. Pirelli takes Stan under his wing, grooming him to become his sidekick and successor. Almond offers up some lighthearted fare, complete with old-fashioned intrusive narrator and numerous spot illustrations. The silliness is tempered by unsentimental, clear-eyed wisdom.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Stanley Potts just can't seem to catch a break. After his dad dies in an accident and his mum dies of a broken heart, Stan goes to live with his aunt and uncle. Uncle Ernie loses his job at the shipyard, decides to start his own business canning sardines, and expects Stan to become as obsessed with the business as he is. Pushed to the breaking point, Stan runs away with a carnival, where he meets an odd assortment of characters. None, however, is quite as mysterious as the legendary Pancho Pirelli, the man who performs the death-defying act of swimming in a tank full of piranhas. Pirelli recognizes a kindred spirit in Stan and takes him under his wing, grooming him to become his sidekick and successor. Almond ventures far afield from the almost hallucinatory magical realism that characterized his earliest work, offering up some lighthearted fare for a younger audience. This book, complete with old-fashioned intrusive narrator and numerous spot illustrations, seems to have more in common with the work of Roald Dahl or Frank Cottrell Boyce; yet the silliness is tempered by an unsentimental, clear-eyed wisdom, marking it unmistakably as the work of Almond. jonathan hunt Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

In British novelist Almond's latest, the trouble starts when Ernie Potts decides to turn his house on Fish Quay Lane into a loud, stinky fish-canning factory, and his nephew Stan has to quit school to work. But the adventure starts on Stan's birthday, when he's granted a rare day off, stumbles upon a nearby fair and is told by the fortunetelling Gypsy Rose, "You are entranced. You will be dejected. You will travel. And we will meet again." Stan, however, is too entranced by the dying goldfish offered as prizes at Mr. Dostoyevsky's hook-a-duck stall to absorb her prophecy. He rescues the 13 fish--but in vain. Greedy and obsessed, Uncle Ernie pan-fries and cans his nephew's new best friends that very night, and Stan, knowing Ernie is now truly barmy, runs away. Stan heads back to the traveling carnival, where he soon becomes the protégé of the mustachioed Pancho Pirelli, the piranha-proof man. Almond's wonderstruck philosophical bent, earthy humor, lovely use of language and colorful characters keep readers swimming along, as does the personable narrator who playfully demands an examination of the storytelling process as it happens. Jeffers' spare, cartoonish pencil sketches perfectly suit the salty, magical tale. A buoyant, delightfully Almond-ine coming-of-age novel about fish, fate and family; moonlight, madness and myth; runts, "Rackanruwin" and, finally, redemption. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection

Stan, who has lived with his aunt and uncle since his parents' deaths, is the star of Almond's latest book. His uncle loses his job when the shipbuilding company closes. Forced to find work to feed his family, Stan's uncle begins canning fish in their home, and Stan is forced to work in the fish-canning factory alongside his uncle and aunt. After Stan's uncle cans his pet goldfish, Stan decides to leave the house and sets out to work in a traveling fair. Some younger readers might express frustration at some of the British slang, since there is no glossary included. Readers who have read Almond's other books will be entertained by the decisions Stan makes, especially when he leaves home, as many youngsters fantasize about that. Beth H. Green, School Library Media Specialist, Wappingers Junior High School, Wappingers Falls, New York. Recommended Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 5–7—When Stanley Potts's Uncle Ernie takes his fish-canning business in a new, inhumane direction, the orphaned boy decides to leave the home his relatives made for him and join a traveling carnival of Gypsies. With the guidance of the hook-a-duck booth proprietor Dostoyevsky, Stan finds success tending the goldfish prizes and forms a tentative friendship with the boss's prickly daughter, Nitasha, who broods over the desertion of her ballerina mother. Big news is the arrival of famous Pancho Pirelli, who swims in a tank with piranhas. Pirelli is convinced that Stan is destined to be his successor and sets about teaching him to dive, to overcome fear, and to find faith in himself. Meanwhile, as Stan settles into his new life, back home Uncle Ernie and Aunt Annie are distraught over his disappearance and plagued by DAFT, the Departmint for the Abolishun of Fishy Things. Setting out to find him, they unintentionally lead DAFT to the carnival, where mayhem ensues. Master storyteller Almond combines delicious wordplay, zany antics, wacky characters, and a bit of magical realism in a novel that touches the heart. Quick-paced, accessible, and enhanced by stylized cartoonlike drawings, this book is sure to be enjoyed by fans of humorous, quirky stories.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

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