________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 29 . . . . April 3, 2015


How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel.

Jess Keating.
Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 2015.
287 pp., trade pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 978-1-4022-9758-8.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Courtney Novotny.

***1/2 /4


“Is the new person a student then?” I was hopeful. Patricia seemed okay, but it might be nice to have someone else my age to hang out with while I was in here. I felt a stab of sadness that Bella couldn’t have joined in with me here, but she was so busy with her new historical cooking classes that she barely had any spare time.

“Yup,” she said. She dug into her pocket and pulled out a crumpled paper. “From your school too!” She reached to the top of her head for her reading glasses and settled them onto her nose.

My mouth went dry as I tried to remember what kids I knew who might be interested in hanging out at the zoo. Kevin? If only. Maybe it was that girl with the braces who always drew ponies on her notebook?

“Um…lets see here…what was it again?” She flipped through a stack of papers from her pocket. “Annalise…? No, that’s not it. Andrea? Addison? Hrmm.” She clucked her tongue. “I know it’s in here somewhere. I should really know before she shows up and I mess up her name,” she muttered. “Right! Here it is! Ashley! Her name is Ashley!”

My hand slipped against the side of the tank and dipped into the frigid water below.


I dried my hand on my shirt, blinking fast.

There was no way. Absolutely no way that prissy, perfect-haired Sneerer would volunteer to work at the zoo surrounded by messy animals. There was bound to be some other Ashley at our school. Even though I couldn’t think of a single one. That girl who always wears a braid and reads romance novels in the cafeteria? Was her name Ashley?

I tried to wipe the mortified look off my face before Patricia thought I was seriously unhinged, but the rustle of the plastic tarp by the pavilion door made me whirl around. A young girl stepped inside.

A girl with arched eyebrows, pink-painted toe-nails, and a very, very familiar sneer.

“Hello, Scales,” Ashley said.

I couldn’t find my voice. Obviously it was hiding somewhere now, cowering from the Sneerer beside me.


Middle schooler Ana Wright’s life is anything but ordinary. She lives in a zoo, works in a shark tank, and has to figure out a way to have her first kiss by the end of the summer. When she’s assigned to work with the snobby, popular and confident Ashley in the zoo’s new shark exhibit for the entire summer, she thinks her summer is ruined. Not only is Ashley Ana’s worst enemy, but Ana’s best friend Liv recently moved half-way around the world to New Zealand and is no longer around to be her supportive side-kick.

     To complicate the summer, Ana and Liv have a pact that they will both have their first kiss before they begin high school. The problem is that, since Ashley has moved to New Zealand and into a new school system, she is able to skip a grade and enter high school early, meaning Ana has less time than she planned on to secure that first kiss. Ana does have her eye on a boy named Kevin but none of the nerves necessary to make a move, especially without the support of her best friend.

     Just when it seems Ana and Ashley could possibly become friends and move past their differences, their potential friendship is sabotaged when mysterious things start happening at the zoo. First, the sea horses are overfed, then, the hermit crabs are let loose. Ana and Ashley blame each other, but is it possible someone else is behind the mishaps?

     How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel is the perfect summer read for middle schoolers and ultimately a story about living outside of one’s comfort zone and finding friendship when you least expect it. Jess Keating has written a truly relatable story that kids will breeze through and look for more. Readers will laugh out loud, swoon over summer college student Logan along with Ana and Ashley, and may just long to visit a zoo along the way.

Highly Recommended.

Courtney Novotny is a Community Librarian.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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