Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin

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Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Although this story deals with depression and sickness, it does so sensitively and with humour. It is magical, mysterious, and utterly charming.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 304 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Faber & Faber
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780571328222

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Billy is struggling at school. He's being picked on by the school bully and he's starting to feel very alone. His mum is sick, although nobody seems to know what's wrong with her. She has been sick for a long time meaning that she can't work, so Billy's dad is working extra hours to try to keep the family afloat and Billy is frequently left to fend for himself. His only escape is in watching his favourite, David Attenborough, or in swimming in the sea. One day, however, things take a magical turn as whilst swimming Billy meets a mackerel who speaks to him! This, combined with the entrance of a new boy at school, starts to change Billy's life in some rather unexpected ways.

I really enjoyed this book. You might think it would be a bit silly, with a talking fish, but rather than being farcical it has, instead, a magical and slightly dangerous feel to it. There are funny moments, but for the most part it felt like an intriguing mystery story. The mystery aspect also continues with Billy's mother and her mysterious illness. I felt her illness, and Billy's handling of it, were extremely well written, and I could feel his anguish at the loss of his mother's presence in his life, and his fears over what was wrong with her. The dynamics of his family are very well depicted, and I particularly enjoyed Billy's relationship with his father which is both lovingly close, and jokingly fun.

Billy himself is a great character. I loved that he has David Attenborough as his imaginary friend, a wise voice inside his mind, dispensing advice! Billy is, as many great children's literary heroes are, something of an outcast. He's a bit different from the other children at school, hence him becoming a target for the bully and, of course, a sympathetic character for the reader. There's a great deal of sadness through the story, because of all the very difficult things that Billy is dealing with, and yet I didn't find the book depressing. His friendship with the new boy brings hope, especially when he plucks up the courage to tell him about his encounter with the talking mackerel and his new friend doesn't laugh in his face but instead helps him plan what he can do next time he goes swimming with the fish. The story with his mother, also, progresses throughout the book, and I felt Billy's reactions to her illness were very real and very moving.

Some people might find the fishy encounters a little too strange, and I think others might be frustrated that in the end, without giving too much away, the fishy tale isn't completely explained. I found the fish both amusing and a little bit terrifying. I'm not a good swimmer, and swimming in the sea scares me, so as Billy goes out further and further, for longer and longer with the fish I did feel very concerned for him. As Billy is enticed into the fishy life, I also felt myself completely caught up in the story. It has a great pace, and is extremely readable. Perfect for confident readers around eight years old and through to early teens, this is a really wonderful, magical story and I look forward to seeing what else Chloe Daykin will write.

Further reading suggestion: You might also enjoy reading Skellig by David Almond or A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Buy Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin at

Buy Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fish Boy by Chloe Daykin at


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