Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings

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Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Lovely coming-of-age story about a little boy on the cusp of adolescence. Full of feeling and a deep understanding, adults will enjoy it easily as much as the children will.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Meadowside
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1845393422

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I've got a dad in a shoe box and a mum who's struggling for her life against a famished cannibalistic sewing machine.

Oh dear! Josh Stephenson is just thirteen. His father is separated from his mother and works away on a ship and so he's a much-missed presence in Josh's life (the shoe box). Money is tight with only one parent at home, so his mother works multiple jobs, some of them at home (the sewing machine). Josh occupies a middle position at school: neither clever nor stupid; neither jock nor geek. He and his best friend Peter are natural history fanatics and they spend a great deal of time watching documentaries on television, or planning their own.

But Josh's thirteenth birthday marks many changes: his father doesn't call but does send a stuffed bird as a present - it's an uncomfortable metaphor; his seventeen-year-old cousin comes to stay and brings a rebellious adolescent sexuality with her; and, horror of horrors, Josh sprouts some terrifying pubic hairs.

What to do when everything goes to hell in a handcart around you?

I thought Fish in the Sky was an absolutely lovely book. It catches a young boy right on the cusp of adolescence and it follows his inner thoughts and sometimes foolish deeds with a great and sympathetic wisdom. It's tremendously touching and there's a great deal of humour about it - Josh's discovery of his half a dozen pubes was an absolute catastrophe for him, but was both funny and reassuring for young readers. It's beautifully written, too, look at this for an opening paragraph:

I am a star, a twinkling star. I'm an infant on the edge of a grave and an old man in a cradle; both a fish in the sky and a bird in the sea. I'm a boy on the outside, but a girl on the inside; innocent in body; guilty in soul.

Lovely! It's honest and uncompromising, talking about sexuality, bullying, truancy and family break-up. But what it does best is to explore the notion of identity and how hard it is to capture one's own as one grows from child to adult. It comes highly recommended by Bookbag.

My thanks to the nice people at Meadowside for sending the book.

If they enjoyed Fish in the Sky, I think Joe Speedboat by Tommy Wieringa would also appeal. Henry Tumour by Anthony McGowan is a very British coming-of-age story that equally blends hilarity and pathos. They could also try Submarine by Joe Dunthorne.

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Buy Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fish in the Sky by Fridrik Erlings at


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