This week marks the 26th (!) annual Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Here’s a selection of shark-themed books — ranging from novel to legend to nonfiction and from silly to informative to poignant — recommended by The Horn Book Magazine. What books would you suggest for young shark enthusiasts?
In picture book Shark vs. Train, Chris Barton asks: if a shark is pitted against a train, which would win? The answer depends on the contest: the train’s belch is louder, but he’s no match for the shark when jumping off the high dive. Chris Barton’s deadpan text — sparked with dialogue balloons that give the characters both personality and one-liners — is matched by Tom Lichtenheld’s spot-on visual humor. (Little, Brown, 4–8 years)
Part graphic novel, part myth, and part beginning reader, R. Kikuo Johnson’s The Shark King is the fable of Nanaue, the Shark King’s son with a mortal woman. Sharks, superpowers, and the comic-panel format will lure in readers; the subtext of bullying and self-discovery will stay with them long afterward. The characters’ rounded black outlines convey strong energy and emotion, while the art features a lush, colorful Hawaiian setting. (TOON/Candlewick, 6–8 years)
Beginning chapter book meets screwball comedy in British import Hooey Higgins and the Shark, written by Steve Voake. Hooey Higgins and his friend, Twig, plan to capture a shark and charge admission for a viewing in order to raise the money to buy the world’s largest chocolate egg. Emma Dodson’s wacky spot art helps readers pick up on tone, and her opening spread, depicting the large cast, helps keep all the players straight in this over-the-top but propulsive read. (Candlewick, 6–8 years)
Timothy J. Bradley’s Paleo Sharks: Survival of the Strangest, a chronologic tour of extinct shark species, employs a smart design and sharp graphics to tie together the encyclopedia-like entries. Each two-page layout includes one or two profiles of sharks, a related text box, and a to-scale comparison. In the accompanying illustrations, sharks sport colorful stripes, spots, and other markings (though Bradley is careful to explain that these are his interpretations). (Chronicle, 9–12 years)
In his Scientists in the Field entry Swimming with Hammerhead Sharks, author Kenneth Mallory uses the context of an IMAX film production to explain how scientists — in particular, marine biologist Pete Klimley — are studying these odd-looking animals. After talking with Klimley, Mallory travels to Cocos Island, where the filmmakers are wrapping up a year of filming sharks. Mallory’s exhilarating shark encounters and detailed explanations of the filming apparatus compose the later chapters. Outstanding color photos accompany the text. (Houghton, 9–12 years)
In Kelly Bingham’s Shark Girl, conversations, letters, and prose poems tell the story of fifteen-year-old artist Jane’s recovery from a shark attack and adjustment to life as an amputee. We read letters from sympathizers (after a bystander’s video is televised) and feel the sting of pity. Jane’s slowly growing comfort with herself is realistically portrayed. Nicely drawn relationships round out the involving, affecting story. (Candlewick, 12 years and up)