Stan Potts is just an ordinary boy, but when all the jobs in Fish Quay disappear, his uncle develops an extraordinary fascination with canning fish. Suddenly their home is filled with clanging machinery, the stench of mackerel, and an uncle so driven by the business that he would even can Stan's beloved goldfish! But Stan is destined to follow Pancho Perlli, the blue-caped madman who swims with piranhas – and as he delves into the waters, he finally discovers who he really can be.
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.