CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 38. . . .June 9, 2017
The visit of Eugenie Clark, nine, to New York’s Battery Park Aquarium sparked an awe inspiring and lifelong passion for sharks. In Shark Lady, readers follow Eugenie from wide eyed and adventurous child to intrepid scientist as she sets out first to learn everything she can about the species and then to teach the world to look at sharks in a new way. Despite the naysayers, she goes from tending to her small aquarium in her apartment, to graduating from university, to dispelling long believed myths.
This picture book is an empowering biography for the elementary-aged child. Eugenie’s intelligence, enthusiasm, determination, and successes are depicted in a way that is both digestible by, and engaging for, children. The vocabulary is rich and challenging, never underestimating the audience at which the story is aimed. It is refreshing to read a true life story for this age group, and it hits the perfect tone and pace.
The illustrations are bright and beautiful; full page, full colour images depict both aquatic life and the protagonist’s experiences. There is a lot of diversity to take in on each page, and Alvarez Miguens’ style is very pleasing to the eye. It is said you should never judge a book by its cover, but children often do, and this book, with its rich blues and greens and friendly cartoon styling, will stand out on the shelf.
For the child who catches Eugenie’s shark fever, there are two additional sections at the end: a collection of trivia about sharks (their teeth are “constantly being grown and move forward like a conveyer belt”) and a “Eugenie Clark time line.” This bonus material takes the work from being an inspiring story of perseverance and self confidence for the very young to a book that can be entertaining and informative for an older child, too. There are several connected messages in this simple telling of an amazing woman’s life work – the respect for all life and the environment, the importance of pushing through obstacles, and standing up for your dreams and other’s rights. Shark Lady is equally worth checking out by budding marine biologists and those with no specific interest in the ocean.
Amber Allen is a librarian in Guelph, ON, with a passion for children’s literature and writing.
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