The Fire-Eaters
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Fire-Eaters

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  585 ratings  ·  84 reviews
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 myst...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Fire-Eaters, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Fire-Eaters

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 945)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I bought this book from a small bookstore close to my university because it was 1/3 of its original price and because I liked the title. I read the back cover and found the story different than what I usually read so I said "let's do it".

I started the book but nothing really interesting happened. Still, I couldn't say I won't read it. Something inside me kept telling me there is more. When I did finish the book, I felt it was a wonderful book. It has no dragons, no elves, no great deeds. It is a...more
Sep 04, 2009 Ruhama rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: teen
Bobby is growing up during the years of nuclear fear and worries about America and Russia starting another war. The book opens a few weeks before school starts, and Bobby has managed to get into an exclusive prep school, and he wonders how he will fit in—Bobby lives in a blue collar section of England—Keely Bay, a coal mining town. Bobby also has to deal with his father having a bit of a medical scare, a contortionist who seems to defy the laws of nature, a girl he’s known all his life becoming...more
Amy Bailey
Reading this book made me remember what I liked so much about the first David Almond book I read, "Skellig." His stories are full of rich characters and so much wisdom you feel like your head might explode after reading it. This book follows young Robert Burns, an English boy starting a new school in 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In a world that's already been scarred by a terrible war and remains teetering on the brink of destruction, he tries to grow up and attain the life an...more
Linda Lipko
This one is set in a sleepy, off the beaten path, coal town near New Castle, England. As usual, Almond writes of coming of age experiences with a cast of characters both soft and hard, gritty and kind.

As the United States and The Soviet Union prepare for potential nuclear disaster during the Cuban missile crisis, Bobby Burns witnesses McNulty, a fire breathing illusionist, carnival-like man who, as the story progresses, symbolically represents destruction and the power of fire to charm, and harm...more
An even deeper, richer pleasure on re-reading than the first time.

Maybe I'm biased, because I too grew up in England in the 1960s, under the constant shadow of nuclear war. But this small, dark diamond of a book, about a boy growing up on the North Sea coast during the Cuba Missile Crisis, is an extraordinary accomplishment, and gets my vote for one of the best middle grade novels ever written. Oh, forget middle grade: this is a book for adults to read, just because it is simple yet intricate, e...more
Dan Lee
This book was probably the most interesting to me so far because of the hard life that the main character(Bobby Burns)is having and his friends Daniel and Alisa. His new school that he was transferred to is abusive. For example his friend Daniel is enrolled to the school that Bobby is in. And all of the students were lined up to be checked by the headmaster, Mr. Todd. Daniel was checked after Bobby and then Mr. Todd said "What is this, Gower?" (Gower is Daniel's last name) "It is my hair. Sir."...more
This book is the worst thing I've ever read!!!!
It's not even propper english, and u can NOT understand a word they say. It makes no sense what so ever. And the plot is completely useless. It is something I would NEVER recommend to anyone. It is a disgrace to all those GOOD books out there! And I hope no-one ever has to go through the torture of reading this book.
Apr 24, 2007 Susan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with a little imagination
An important period of recent history is brought to life through the eyes of a boy in Northeast England.

The threat of nuclear war, brought about by the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis. A memsmerising performance by a fire-eater, playing to the crowds of spellbound, slightly fearful people.
yo be honest, i hadn't even finished the book. i couldn't ever understand what the characters were talking about and they spoke in old timely/British style which was confusing. i do not advise this book to anyone.
This book was not at all what I was expecting. The author's ability to express a coming-of-age male, without turing the book into a "growing up" book and without relying on the usual path, is excellent.
clearly, i seem to love everything this man writes. this was no exception.

growing up in the 80's, the threat of nuclear war was still hanging over us so it was freakish to read of the experiences of the Cuban missile crisis from the viewpoint of a child. Mr.Almond beautifully captures the fear and quiet desperation of living on the brink of destruction.

his books are never action-packed, there's no Really Big Event, and they're relatively short, but they always have that clutch-to-my-bosom feeli...more
i chose this book because i wanted a prize winner and this book won two awards.this is about a young lad who has to join a new school and leave the last one behind.his friends are Joseph Connor and alisa spink the seacoalers daughter who can heal injured fawns in her dreams. then bobby meets mcnulty the devil, the fire eater and a escapologist (an entertainer specializing in freeing themselves from the confinement of such things as ropes, handcuffs, and chains.)then bobby's dad gets sick later o...more
I LOVED this book!!! The kids did as well, so beautiful so brilliant!
Another amazing Almond book :-)
My favorite Almond novel.
Jason Chen
"The Fire Eaters" by David Almond was a very interesting book. The story is about a boy named Bobby Burns who lived in "sleepy" coal-mining town called Keely Bay. Bobby was living a normal and happy life, and one would even consider him "lucky," but things started to look grim for him. Darkness, an evil force, was approaching him in every way possible. From a world where Bobby was exposed to wondrous thing, to a world where his father is suffering an illness, where school is a cruel place, and i...more
Themes: pain, change, war, illness, standing up for beliefs

Bobby Burns lives in Keely Bay, Northeastern England, during the Cold War. He has just finished primary school and is just about to begin attending a new school, when he meets McNulty, a mad street performer who performs acts of extreme pain for entertainment. As he befriends McNulty and understands more of what a life of that kind of pain could be like, Bobby begins a new school where the teachers beat the students when they do somethin...more
I read this over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. Reminiscent of the children's books and stories I read as a child myself, the writing style is simplistic but deeply engrossing.

Told from the point-of-view of an 11 year old boy, Bobby experiences friendship, heartache, love, and, most importantly, the importance of living life and not just scraping by. The characters are all written openly honest and it's this simplicity which makes the book so heartfelt and engaging.

This is the second no...more
I looked at this book for a damn long time on the shelf before I read it. I think the reason is because I thought Fire Eating was going to be a cheesy analogy for, I don't know, taking shit from people. But it wasn't; the analogy was both deeper and more subtle. There were some very grown up characters and circumstances that were scary which made the book scary. It's set in a coastal coal town in northern England, an out of the way place for sure. This means that the characters all know each oth...more
In the last days of summer, 1962, Bobby Burns first saw McNulty, the Fire-Eater. He could wriggle free of binding chains, or stick a skewer through one cheek and out the other, so it stretched the span of his mouth. Or McNulty could breath fire, so that you couldn’t tell where the man ended and the fire began. McNulty’s past is dark and full of violence, but Bobby cannot stop thinking about him. As he begins his first days at a new school, as he worries about his father’s hacking cough, as he wa...more
In the last days of summer, 1962, Bobby Burns first saw McNulty, the Fire-Eater. He could wriggle free of binding chains, or stick a skewer through one cheek and out the other, so it stretched the span of his mouth. Or McNulty could breath fire, so that you couldn’t tell where the man ended and the fire began. McNulty’s past is dark and full of violence, but Bobby cannot stop thinking about him. As he begins his first days at a new school, as he worries about his father’s hacking cough, as he wa...more
Unabridged version read by the author.

This was a cleverly written book, with several themes weaving themselves in and out of the narrative.
The Fire Eater, of the title, is also an escapologist and war veteran. He makes his living as a street performer, dealing with his demons from the war by inflicting pain on himself. Meanwhile the whole of the Western world is consumed by fear of the War ships steaming towards Cuba in a showdown with the Russians (1962). Again the theme of fire haunts the read...more
Michele Velthuizen
Interest level: 5th +
Reading level: easy, short chapters
Genre: realistic fiction, historical fiction, adventure, friendship, bullying, school, sixties
Read alikes: Skellig

If you read and enjoyed "Skellig" (see review in this Blog), also by David Almond, you will enjoy this strange story which takes place in England in the early 60's during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even in the seemingly insignificant seaside town where Bobby Burns lives, the mood seems grim because of what is happening in the wor...more
Helena Spiteri
The Fire-Eaters by David Almond follows the story of Bobby Burns, who lives in a sleepy coal-mining town near Keely Bay in Northumberland. The story is set in 1962 and opens with Bobby on his summer holidays. Things for Bobby seem a bit grim. His father is ill and Bobby is worried about him. Also, he is concerned about starting his new grammar school. Bobby’s world is changing and he must come to terms with those changes. When he starts school he doesn’t like his new teachers because they are ve...more
Während die Welt innehält und mit einem dritten Weltkrieg rechnet (ausgelöst durch die Kuba-Krise 1962) geht die Welt des 12-jährigen Robert unter. Der Junge aus einfachen Verhältnissen muss damit rechnen, dass er seine beiden besten Freunde Ailsa und Joseph verliert, wenn er auf die höhrere Schule geht. Ailsa führt ihren Brüdern und dem Vater den Haushalt und geht in gar keine Schule mehr. Sie lässt es darauf ankommen, ob den Behörden zu ihrer Siutation etwas anderes einfällt, außer sie daran z...more
​The Fire Eaters​ follows a few days in the life of Bobby, a British boy who lives in a coal-mining town and has just started at a new school. The novel takes place during the Cuban missile crisis. A few thoughts:

- At the core of the book are conflicts over identity. Bobby is a working class boy whose educational prospects are high. We get the impression that he's destined for higher education. By contrast, his friends seem already, at ten or eleven, to be approaching the end of their education...more
This is a beautiful look at family, love, fear, hope. This was a hard book at times; it is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis in Northern England in a small village. It is full of fear and angst, the pain of war and cruel teachers. But, love pulses through it. Amazing scene during the dissection of a frog where a teacher just beautifully hits the nail on the head on life, its value, its beauty. Beautifully-written with a lot to think about for teens and older.
Ivana de Bona
This was, I believe the first middle-grade book I've read. I liked it, it was somehow very sincere and believable. Even though it was very simple and the plot was very poor, the story had a soul, which isn't something many book have nowadays...
Cynthia Egbert
This was an interesting read. To experience the Cuban missile crisis through the eyes of a small town English boy opened my eyes. And the underlying themes of God, prayer, rebellion, and class distinctions were woven in beautifully. I recommend it.
I'm not sure what to think of this one. I was back and forth of being completely into it, and then completely not. The accent was fun to listen to, and I was glad I already knew what a lot of those Scottish terms were. (I think I want to start going around using the word "bairn"--the narrator sounded so fun when he said it.) I know it was a small, coastal mining town, but I still didn't like all the British/Scottish swearing. Particularly not in what is considered a children's book. I think YA i...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 31 32 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Red Shoe
  • Heart's Delight
  • Peeling the Onion
  • Brother in the Land
  • River Boy
  • By the River
  • In Lane Three, Alex Archer (Alex Archer, #1)
  • Rocco
  • There Will Be Wolves
  • The Running Man
  • The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley, Who Planned to Live an Unusual Life
  • Thursday's Child
  • Refugee Boy
  • Ascolta il mio cuore
  • Walking Naked
  • Caperucita en Manhattan
  • The Pricker Boy
  • Nobody's Family Is Going to Change
David Almond is a British children's writer who has penned several novels, each one to critical acclaim. He was born and raised in Felling and Newcastle in post-industrial North East England and educated at the University of East Anglia. When he was young, he found his love of writing when some short stories of his were published in a local magazine. He started out as an author of adult fiction be...more
More about David Almond...
Skellig (Skellig, #1) My Name is Mina (Skellig, Prequel) Kit's Wilderness Click: One Novel, Ten Authors Heaven Eyes

Share This Book