The Fire Eaters by David Almond


The Fire Eaters

Title: The Fire Eaters
Author: David Almond
Published by: Hodder Children’s Books
Publication date: 2003
Pages: 249
Genres: Historical; Realistic; Junior Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought


Bobby Burns is a lucky lad. He lives by the sea in sleepy Keely Bay. He has a wonderful family. He has great friends: the tough guy, Joseph Connor, who’s always looked out for him; Ailsa Spink, the seacoaler’s daughter, who can heal injured fawns with her dreams.

But things are starting to fall apart. His Dad’s mysteriously ill. His new school is a cold and cruel place. The Third World War seems about to start.

And now he’s met McNulty, the fire-eater. What does McNulty want with Bobby Burns? Why does he come to Bobby’s beach? This is the story of two months in Bobby’s life. A time of trouble, a time of change, a time of miracles.


This novel is set in 1962 during the Cuban missile catastrophe that was occurring at the time; however, this is the least of Bobby’s troubles. He starts attending a new school who are keen on disciplining via the use of a whip to keep the pupils in line, but when Bobby becomes friends with Daniel, things get rather out of hand for him as he becomes caught up in a riotous act of rebellion against the school. As well as this, his best friend Joseph is becoming very rough with Bobby, his other friend Ailsa refuses to attend school and his Dad has been struck down with a mysterious illness, plus there is the strange McNulty with his fire-eating skills who seems struck with Bobby.

For a book that is not aimed at my age group, this had a fantastic storyline full of mystery and empathy for the character of Bobby. Almond has written it in such a way which makes the reader feel the worry and despair of the characters in the book as they worry about the Cuban Missiles and the potential for World War Three to kick off, as well as Bobby’s school worries and his Dad’s illness which the doctors are unable to find a reason for.

Overall, I thought this was a very well-written and constructed book suitable for junior readers aged between 8 and 12 years of age, however this doesn’t mean that older reader won’t enjoy it as well.

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Amazon: The Fire Eaters

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