Clownfish by Alan Durant

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Clownfish by Alan Durant

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: This is both a good story, and a moving and unexpected study of a child's rather unusual way of dealing with grief.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 224 Date: November 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781406374629

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When Dak's dad dies very suddenly, from a heart attack, Dak is left feeling lost and alone. His mum is lost inside her own grief, struggling to take care of herself, let alone care for Dak, and so he escapes to the local aquarium - somewhere that both he and his dad had loved. But then he discovers that actually, his dad has turned into a clownfish and is living at the local aquarium! What will Dak do when the aquarium's future is in question, and he may potentially lose his dad all over again?

When I first started this book I wasn't entirely sure what was happening. Was Dak's dad really a clownfish? Was this a magical fantasy novel? And I think that's part of the story's strength. Dak really, really wants to believe that his dad is still with him, in one way or another, and as a reader I really, really wanted to believe in that too, for Dak's sake. The thought of losing a parent so young is shocking, and you find yourself hoping that perhaps this is a magical story, rather than real life.

Watching Dak's mum fall to pieces is desperately sad - you understand, completely, why she is, but at the same time you're hoping against hope that she will pull herself together so that she can help Dak. Yet at the same time as being so sad, the story also manages to be very funny, with daft jokes between Dak and his dad, and the budding friendship he begins to build with a girl (a real girl!) at the aquarium. I really liked the character of Victoria, and the way their friendship develops. The discussions and arguments they have together felt real, and I also really enjoyed their bids to save the aquarium and the way they work together to do this.

I hadn't been sure what to expect from this story, and I enjoyed the way it was written and told. The chapters aren't too long, so it felt like the sort of book a confident 8+ year old could get on with. And whilst the lead character is a boy, it didn't seem like a gendered novel, just a good story for anyone. It can feel very sad at times, but any book dealing with the death of a parent will have that. The author does manage to balance the grief with humour, however, and so it was never overwhelming or unbearable. My frustrations with Dak's mum were addressed by the end of the story, and of course, her struggles with grief were just as valid and as life-changing as Dak's. I felt that the whole story was sensitively handled, and that Dak behaved in a relatable way, making this an extremely readable book.

Further reading suggestion: You might also like to try A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Boy Underwater by Adam Baron.

Buy Clownfish by Alan Durant at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Clownfish by Alan Durant at

Buy Clownfish by Alan Durant at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Clownfish by Alan Durant at


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