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The Fire-Eaters [Paperback]

David Almond
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Nov. 3 2003
Bobby Burns knows he’s a lucky lad. Growing up in sleepy Keely Bay, Bobby is exposed to all manner of wondrous things: stars reflecting off the icy sea, a friend that can heal injured fawns with her dreams, a man who can eat fire. But darkness seems to be approaching Bobby’s life from all sides. Bobby’s new school is a cold, cruel place. His father is suffering from a mysterious illness that threatens to tear his family apart. And the USA and USSR are testing nuclear missiles and creeping closer and closer to a world-engulfing war.

Together with his wonder-working friend, Ailsa Spink, and the fire-eating illusionist McNulty, Bobby will learn to believe in miracles that will save the people and place he loves.


From the Hardcover edition.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details


Product Description

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-It's 1962, and 12-year-old Bobby and his mom leave their small, seaside village in the north of England for a day trip to Newcastle. There, Bobby is staggered by his encounter with Mr. McNulty. This odd little man is his own wandering sideshow; he pierces his cheeks with a dagger, escapes from shackles, and breathes fire in exchange for coins. At home, Dad recognizes McNulty as a fellow veteran of World War II, who came home from Burma with his brain boiled by "too much war, too much heat, too many magic men." Meanwhile, Bobby enrolls at the prestigious Sacred Heart school with his new, upper-crust neighbor, Daniel. Both quickly suffer at the hands of Mr. Todd, a masochistic teacher. As Daniel plots revenge, Bobby worries that his father's increasingly frail health might prove fatal. Changing relationships with friends Ailsa and Joseph also bear heavily on Bobby, but overhanging everything is the Cuban missile crisis. During the climactic night as the disparate characters, including McNulty, gather at a bonfire on the beach, Bobby's fear that the flash of nuclear annihilation is as likely as dawn fulfills Almond's firm evocation of this particular time and place. The protagonist's ferocious love for his family, community, and life itself amply reward readers able to appreciate the uncompromising British idiom. The author's trademark themes-courage in resisting evil; the importance of love among friends and family, especially in the face of crisis; suffering and death amidst peace and beauty; and the fragility of life-are here in full, and resonate long after the last page is turned.
Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-8. Almond returns to some familiar themes--the mystery and the pain of life--in a dramatic story drawn from both global and personal events. It is 1962, and the world is on the brink of nuclear destruction. For Bobby Burns, the waste and ruin is even closer to home: his father is seriously ill, and a cruel schoolmaster is forcing Bobby to take a stand that may destroy his educational chances. As in all of Almond's books, everyday detail mingles with the grotesque. The bizarre here comes in the form of McNulty, a fire-eater and strongman who also pushes sharp objects through his flesh--an explicit demonstration of pain mirrored by Bobby's sticking pins in his hands as a sacrifice to keep his father healthy. For anyone who loves words, Almond's books are a pleasure. But this time the Newcastle accent used by most of the characters may be difficult to grasp initially, and though Almond brings together the strands of his story, some of his many characters are not well integrated. Whatever the book's flaws, though, Almond's writing is so imaginative and layered that turning the pages is always meaningful. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful read May 17 2004
Format:Hardcover
Bobby Burns has lived his entire life in the small coastal town of Keely Bay, but in the autumn of 1962 he finds that his life is changing. He is going to a new preparatory school, leaving his old friends and the village school behind. He suspects his father may be sick. The Cuban Missile Crisis is raging in America, threatening the entire world with nuclear annihilation.
He is also meeting new people. There is McNulty, a fire-eater and escapologist whose mind was unhinged in WWII. There is Daniel, the new kid in town, who looks down on Keely Bay's working class inhabitants. Then there are the cruel teachers at Bobby's new school, who resort to beatings when they feel children don't know their place.
Together, Bobby and Daniel mount a protest against the barbaric practice of strapping. The potential price of expulsion seems insignificant compared to the protests against nuclear war they see on television. When Bobby asks his father about the rioting, he answers, "That's just people doing what they should do, making their voice heard, yelling against what they know is wrong."
David Almond's books often deal with themes of faith and redemption. THE FIRE-EATERS contains both of these elements, along with a reverence for even the most damaged lives. The night when nuclear war is averted, Bobby, his family, McNulty and the neighbors gather on the beach, eating, drinking and trying to spend time together with the people and places they love before the world ends, or changes forever.
THE FIRE-EATERS contains a powerful message of hope. The fear of nuclear war, which was at its height during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was for its generation what the fear of terrorism is for this generation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful read May 17 2004
By KidsReads - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Bobby Burns has lived his entire life in the small coastal town of Keely Bay, but in the autumn of 1962 he finds that his life is changing. He is going to a new preparatory school, leaving his old friends and the village school behind. He suspects his father may be sick. The Cuban Missile Crisis is raging in America, threatening the entire world with nuclear annihilation.
He is also meeting new people. There is McNulty, a fire-eater and escapologist whose mind was unhinged in WWII. There is Daniel, the new kid in town, who looks down on Keely Bay's working class inhabitants. Then there are the cruel teachers at Bobby's new school, who resort to beatings when they feel children don't know their place.
Together, Bobby and Daniel mount a protest against the barbaric practice of strapping. The potential price of expulsion seems insignificant compared to the protests against nuclear war they see on television. When Bobby asks his father about the rioting, he answers, "That's just people doing what they should do, making their voice heard, yelling against what they know is wrong."
David Almond's books often deal with themes of faith and redemption. THE FIRE-EATERS contains both of these elements, along with a reverence for even the most damaged lives. The night when nuclear war is averted, Bobby, his family, McNulty and the neighbors gather on the beach, eating, drinking and trying to spend time together with the people and places they love before the world ends, or changes forever.
THE FIRE-EATERS contains a powerful message of hope. The fear of nuclear war, which was at its height during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was for its generation what the fear of terrorism is for this generation. Not every disaster can be averted, as was seen during the tragic events of September 11th, but the FIRE-EATERS is a reminder that these moments of crisis can bring clarity to our lives and help us to treasure those things that are truly meaningful.
--- Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE FIRE EATERS BY: JOE WANSA CRACKER April 3 2005
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Are you the kind of person that likes to read books that has funny words on it? Also, if you are a guy that likes reading books that has a great wonderful story I suggest for you to read this. If you want to learn a lot of words that are big and not normally used, you should read this book. Well if you are one of those people that get entertained by reading funny words learning new words and likes great stories keep reading!

This book has a lot of funny words, words that are like: nowt, mebbe, aye, and more! So if you like funny words you should read this book. Some people like to read and learn something so if you are one of those people u should read this because you will learn a lot of new big words in this book. This book also has a wonderful story my favorite part of the book is when a guy breath fire and inhales it and breathes it out again. If you read this book, you would picture him doing all of those nice tricks like swallowing a sword, getting locked in something and escaping, the rope trick, making the snake dance, and the best of all; the breathing fire trick.

I strongly recommend for you to read this book because it is worth reading. You will laugh out loud with all of the funny words in this book and you will learn a lot of new big words, so it is like your learning something and you are laughing and having fun reading the book. This book will entertain you because it has a great story! So if I were you, I would go to the nearest library or book store and get this book!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fire Eater April 21 2005
By S. Imperio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Set in England, eleven year old Bobby Burns has a lot on his mind. His father is ill and he has just started at a new school. If that is not enough, it is 1962 and the world is on the brink of World War III as Bobby and his family watch the hostilities between the United States and Russia now known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. While out with his mother, Bobby sees the street performer, McNulty the Fire Eater. Bobby is afraid of the big man, yet so fascinated by McNulty's tricks that he seeks him out whenever possible. A precarious bond is formed between the young boy and the Fire Eater. It soon becomes apparent to Bobby that McNulty is both mentally ill and homeless. Almond does a beautiful job portraying the mysterious McNulty as someone to fear yet someone to love and to comfort. Some of McNulty's tricks may not be for the squeamish and the abusive teachers may offend some. Recommended for ages 12+ years old.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new David Almond fan... May 9 2005
By On the beach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This story was most engaging as I was brought back to my youth in a flood of memories. The author also succeeded in re-awakening the same feelings of joy and anxiety that I remembered from this time in history. My 13 year old son had recommended this book to me and I must be developing an interest in young adult fiction. Another book in this genre that captured my attention was Mark McNulty's `The Sea Shack'. Each book involved tales of young boys and their experiences in seacoast communities. I could identify with these times and circumstances and the authors remarkable talent for developing young characters. These books are terrific offerings for true `summer escape' reading. And, they are to be enjoyed by young and old alike as I have learned. Now, I must read the other David Almond books. I have become a fan.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong and Beautiful Nov. 15 2004
By Helen Frost - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Another book by David Almond that carries you along in the story as miracles slowly unfold beneath the surface. The characters are drawn with tenderness and humor and the community they create and inhabit becomes almost a character in itself. I remember the Cuban missile crisis--I was about the same age as Bobby Burns, the main character in this story, and the story evoked the memory of those days so hauntingly.

I keep marveling at the title, that plural that makes you think "together we can save the world."
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