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.