April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Take a Bite Out of Summer Reading with Shark Week–Themed Titles

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Sharks are a huge part of our summertime culture—synonymous with hamburgers, hot dogs, firecrackers, and all other things Americana. Why do children and adults love these creatures so often the source of nightmares?  What is our fascination with these prehistoric swimmers? And can we better protect and care for them? Every year the Discovery Channel embraces our passion for these magnificent sharp toothed beasts with a full week of nonstop shark action, information, and stories. Considering the dwindling global shark population, it is important that children learn to appreciate sharks—to look past all the scary parts—and understand how essential the animals are to their ecosystems and the ocean as a whole.

Here are a few titles sure to get just-out-of-school kids right back into the swing of reading and learning…about sharks, of course!

HARVEY, Derek. Super Shark Encyclopedia and Other Creatures of the Deep. 208p. charts. diags. glossary. index. photos. DK. Jun. 2015. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781465435842.
Gr 3-8–This book presents a rare perspective into the creatures of the deep, with engaging images and clear facts. Sharks are the main focus, but there are captivating chapters devoted to many other creatures, including the giant clam, spiny devil fish, sea horse, Gentoo penguin, and sea otter, making this title ideal for research purposes and pleasure reading alike. The animals are divided into five sections: “Amazing Anatomy,” “Animal Athletes,” “Life Stories,” “Supernatural Senses,” and “Exploring the Deep.” Topics such as size, life span, and diet are featured for each entry, and often charts accompany the facts. Detailed diagrams and large, stunning, colorful photographs complement the captivating text. VERDICT Secure this work as an awe-inspiring resource on sharks and other wildlife of the deep for students and teachers.–Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District, Greensburg, PA

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2015 issue.

NF-Montgomery-The Great White Shark ScientistMONTGOMERY, Sy. The Great White Shark Scientist. photos by Keith Ellenbogen. 80p. (Scientists in the Field Series). bibliog. index. websites. HMH. Jun. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544352988. POP
Gr 5-8–Prepare to be enveloped in saltwater air and dizzying blue water in this latest entry from veteran author Montgomery. A tense opening line delivered by 52-year-old great white shark biologist Greg Skomal is sure to hook readers: “It’s pretty treacherous right here.” But as they will soon discover, for Skomal and team, the even greater danger is not seeing a great white at all. Montgomery deftly balances information and intrigue without delving into the sensational; the emphasis is always on providing unique insight into the fieldwork of scientists and the absolute patience and perseverance it takes to locate, identify, gather, and analyze scientific data under challenging circumstances. Her travels with Skomal and her journey into a shark cage with biologist Erick Higuera are evidence of a genuine interest in understanding great whites and reversing negative attitudes about them. Readers will come to learn that the perceived danger surrounding sharks does not always match reality (the prime example offered being the astounding number of Americans injured by toilets in comparison to shark-related deaths in a year) and that these creatures are in desperate need of quality protection and conservation efforts. Ellenbogen’s crystal clear photographs range from intimate shots of crew members and aquatic life to large aerial overviews of the inlets and waters they are sailing on—students will be sure to stop and linger over these gorgeous images. VERDICT Exceptionally written and highly recommended for those looking to give a timely summer boost to STEM collections.–Della Farrell, School Library JournalThis review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.

BB2014-Neighborhood-SharksROY, Katherine. Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands. illus. by Katherine Roy. 48p. bibliog. further reading. maps. websites. Roaring Brook/David Macaulay Studio. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596438743.
Gr 2-4–In preparation for this well-researched book on great white sharks, Roy joined scientists in the Farallon Islands to study the animals near San Francisco. Though shark lovers of all ages will enjoy poring over the intense, vivid images, there’s a lot of information that older students will particularly appreciate. Readers will learn about many aspects of great whites—their anatomy, how they hunt, and their place in the ecosystem, as well as how scientists study them. The action-packed illustrations, rendered in watercolor and pencil with some digital work, are both accurate and captivating. Pair this one with Gail Gibbons’s Sharks or Seymour Simon’s Incredible Sharks. Additional information in the form of films, books, and online resources are appended, including a link to a live webcam of the Farallon Islands. VERDICT An excellent introduction.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TXThis article was published in School Library Journal‘s July 2014 issue.

WEISS, Matt. Please Be Nice to Sharks: Fascinating Facts About the Ocean’s Most Misunderstood Creatures. photos by Daniel Botelho. 32p. index. Sterling. Jun. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781454917489.
Gr 3-5–Did you know that humans kill more than 100 million sharks each year, but only about five people are killed by sharks? This book maintains that by having an understanding of these magnificent creatures, we can better preserve them and our beloved oceans. Each page presents a different shark species, ranging from the familiar great white to the rocky-looking wobbegong shark. Each shark introduces itself with a friendly opener like “Ahoy, matey!” and goes on to give a bit about its identifying features, traits, and abilities (for instance, the blue shark says, “I’m pretty easy to recognize because I’ve got a big ol’ nose and nice blue skin.”). Every entry concludes with a plea to “be nice to sharks!” Educators could use this as a mentor text to model the technique of “voice” in creative writing, as each shark speaker tends to have its own personality. The large, crisp photos that accompany the text give readers a chance to look into the eyes of the shark: a useful way to invoke empathy. Of the 14 sharks featured, three take up an entire spread (the great white, Caribbean reef, and lemon shark) along with a sidebar listing average length, weight, diet, and other specific facts. Back matter includes a “How To Be Nice to Sharks” note warning readers to avoid shark fin soup and seafood caught by big fishing fleets. VERDICT A slight introduction to the concepts of animal and ecosystem conservation; young shark lovers will be sure to enjoy this work.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.


Are your patrons looking for everything ocean and more? Check out these titles to bulk up shark themed displays.

Dembicki-WildOceanDEMBICKI, Matt, ed. Wild Ocean: Sharks, Whales, Rays and Other Endangered Sea Creatures. 156p. Fulcrum. May 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781938486388.
Gr 7 Up–A dozen veteran and first-time comic book writers and graphic novelists appear in this collaboration. Separate chapters introduce readers to wonders of the ocean under threat from overfishing, global warming, and other man-made dangers. From seahorses made into keychains to monk seals losing their birthing and pup-rearing grounds, kids encounter beautiful creatures that need humans to undo the damage they have caused to the environment. Each story opens with a textual explanation of the section’s topic. The graphic styles vary widely, with some, like the story of the manatee, looking like traditional Sunday comics, while others, like the description of the coral reefs of the Maldives, appearing much more realistic. Some of the entries include allusions to ocean-focused mythology, while others are practically wordless and let the illustrated panels speak for themselves. Back matter includes not always age-appropriate further reading, but also very informative websites for in-depth research. VERDICT Passionate students would enjoy this colorful, informative look into different aspects of sea life, and teachers could use the book to introduce marine biology or ecology units, making this a wise purchase for middle school libraries and beyond.–Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2014 issue.

Rizzo-OceanAnimalsRIZZO, Johnna. Ocean Animals: Who’s Who in the Deep Blue. 112p. glossary. index. photos. National Geographic. May 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781426325069.
Gr 3-6–Polar bears swimming underwater, colorful sea stars, luminescent fish, and bright coral reefs are just a few of the images sure to lure eager eyes. An introduction by Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, explains that in order to protect and preserve our oceans, we first must come to an understanding of marine life. Rizzo wonderfully covers how geographers divide “one world ocean” into four (possibly five) for ease of identification, along with a plethora of sea creatures’ behaviors and habitat, a brief explanation of tectonic plates and subaqueous geography, relevant statistics, and even comparisons between an octopus and squid. Recognizable animals such as sharks and dolphins as well as more obscure creatures including marine iguanas are featured, and there are explanations of how marine biologists and ecologists work and operate in this often challenging environment. The text is simple but provides enough information and fun facts that readers will walk away having learned something about their favorite aquatic animal—plus the larger trim size allows the images to shine. Spreads on ocean habitats, the Pristine Seas Project, and “20 Ways You Can Protect the Ocean” help to integrate ideas on conversation without being preachy or topical; the overall message is that humans will greatly benefit from the health of the oceans and their inhabitants. VERDICT A lively offering for inspiring seafarers, in the standard National Geographic format, best for classroom use.–Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.

 See also: TPiB: It’s Shark Week! | Teen Librarian Toolbox by Karen Jensen




Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple