Julia and the Shark

Union Square Kids. Mar. 2023. 224p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781454948681.
Gr 3-7–Julia, age 10, moves with her parents to a lighthouse on a remote island for the summer. Her father has been tasked with fixing the lighthouse, while her mother is determined to catch a sighting of the rare and elusive Greenland shark. But when her mother turns her marine biologists’ dream into an obsession that threatens to bankrupt the family, Julia begins to see her mother through a different lens and makes connections from long-forgotten childhood memories. This is a poetic look at mental illness. Illustrations invoke the chaotic feelings of a young girl struggling to understand the situation around her, while also trying to make new friends and deal with bullies. The symbolism of the broken lighthouse and the ever-present but elusive shark creates a depth of character that is strengthened by stirring moments when Julia reflects on her own feelings of anxiety and helplessness. The back matter includes resources for learning more about conservation and the environment, as well as resources to support mental health for children and young adults.
VERDICT A poignant book about mental illness that includes timely topics of science and the environment, this is highly recommended.

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