Mother of Sharks

Penguin Workshop. May 2023. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593523582.
Gr 2-4–A fantastical fictionalized account of the childhood of Melissa Cristina Marquez in Puerto Rico. Melissa has a few minutes left to play outdoors in the ocean and swims out to a tide pool where she meets a hermit crab, who becomes her guide in the study and exploration of sharks. The beautiful painterly artwork shows the glory of aquatic life and imbues the joy in learning and then sharing the secrets of the ocean depths. The story is told from the first person point-of-view of Melissa as a child, talking to a hermit crab who first appears in her dream life, building up towards her present life as a marine biologist. However, the story uses the talking hermit crab to guide her through layers of dreams that shift perspectives continually: Melissa is first seen staying too long in a tide pool, then dreaming about sharks in bed, then going to the library to study where she meets her future self, then ending back in the tide pool. The story is told with short phrases in Spanish, which is clearly understood via context cues. The book includes a letter from the author, a glossary, list of additional resources, and list of translated text.
VERDICT Important purchase for its representation of Latinx/Hispanics in the hard sciences; however, the structure and the layered framework of the story makes it confusing and problematic as a read-aloud.

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