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The Fire-Eaters

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  659 ratings  ·  94 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)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,092)
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Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
This just wasn't for me. I didn't connect to any of the characters, and the plot didn't keep me interested and lacked excitement.
I did somewhat enjoy the last few chapters, but the rest was pretty meh for me.
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
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
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
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
M. A. P.
Setting: Keely Bay, England, a dying coastal town drowning in slack. Time: the Cold War, during which people feared the possibility of a WWIII. Set in such a turbulent period of time that would change the known world order in the West, The Fire-Eaters is a book of subtle story telling, of subtle conveying of emotions.

Subtlety tends to be very much a hit and miss for me, and unfortunately, I must say this one was more of a miss to me. Most of the characters I could feel nothing much towards, such
Lena Hillbrand
This is a little gem of a book with a wonderful melancholy tone and a grey mood. I found myself feeling slightly depressed every time I listened. It had a very sobering, yet also calming, effect on me as a reader. The author was able to draw me in to the character's mind and his environment by creating such powerful atmosphere throughout. I did find that in a few places, scenes were glossed over instead of fully explored. For instance, the climax scene seemed more like a summary than a fully dev ...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.
Miss Amanda
gr 7+ 218pg

1962, England. 12 year old Bobby is not as excited as his parents about starting a new school. From the first day of school, the students learn that harsh discipline is used to enforce order. Even being innocent of doing anything does not guarantee a student will not be hit on the hand with a ruler. When one of the students decides to stand up to the teachers, Bobby decides to join him.

Although there is some mention of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fire-eater Mr. McNulty, they are
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
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
Jan 20, 2015 Xander rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2015
I have to say that David Almond is one of the most interesting authors I've come across in a long time. His books are either a hit or miss with me, but regardless of being a miss, the imagery in every book of his lingers on with you well after you've returned the book to the shelf. The Fire-Eaters for me was more of a miss, hence my "It was ok" rating. Set in Keely Bay in Northumberland, England, around the Cuba Missile Crisis, it tells the story of a boy who starts at a new, strictly religious ...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
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
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
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
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
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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...
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