Author: Nicola Davies
Illustrator: James Croft
Publisher: Walker Books, Ltd.
Publisher’s Intended Audience: Grades 1-3
Special Feature: Story-time recording on audio CD (13 minutes) read by Alan Marriott. Alan Marriot is best known for his voices on television show Bob the Builder. The read-along and story-time recording includes information about sharks.
Summary: Surprising Sharks is a presentation of fascinating information about sharks conveyed with child-like wonder. The Blackbelly Lantern Shark has light-making organs on its belly, a characteristic that Davies describes as “built-in-fairy lights”. The illustrations include small fish wearing sunglasses as they travel under the Blackbelly Lantern Shark’s belly. Sharks are a diverse species in every way. The story speaks to the reader candidly about shark habits, including the fact that some sharks eat each others before they are born. The scary side of the shark is presented from the beginning as the book cover presents the Great White Shark; an amazing creature who is both admired and feared. The scary side of humans is also presented; a concept every child must face.
Literary elements at work in the story:
Genre: Picture Book / Non-fiction -Information facts – Nature
Characterization: “Shaaaaarrk!” is probably the last word anyone wants to hear while swimming in the ocean. But most sharks are not at all what people expect. Sharks have been on Earth for 300 million years and can be found today in every ocean and sea in the world. People see sharks as monsters but of the 500 different kinds of sharks in the world, only 30 have ever attacked humans, and most feed on shell fish and small fishes. As predators they only kill to eat and are as important in the sea as wolves, lions, tigers, and bears are on the land.
Plot: The story is told with pictures and words as a young boy discovers the wonder and life of sharks as he swims in the sea. Sharks, with their twelve different species, from the Dwarf Lantern Shark (just 6 inches) to the Whale Shark (39 feet, 4 inches) are truly amazing and diverse creatures. Their behavior, actions, and physical attributes are not all the same. The world of sharks is surprising in that their world and life is not that different than our own.
Theme: The story provides informational facts about sharks as the reader ventures under the ocean. The story changes its perspective on the last page; “If you were a shark swimming in the lovely blue sea, the last word you’d want to hear would be …human! You cannot judge a shark by its reputation, appearance or nature!
Point of View: Second Person, story teller tells the reader about sharks.
Style: Story uses lyrical words, humor, colorful illustrations and astonishing facts about sharks to tell and show the reader the true story of the shark, a story that is different than what one expects.
Perspective on Gender/Race/Economic/Ability: There are over 500 different types of sharks. The sharks are referred to in the book as male and female. The illustrations of children in the book are primarily caucasian males.
Scripture: Psalm 8; Genesis 1:1-26; Hebrews 2:5-9, Psalm 139
Theology: God creates every creature in special and unique ways. As part of God’s kingdom we are gifted with special gifts that are not apparent from our appearances and actions. All sharks are not the same and neither are people.
Faith Talk Questions (Intended for use with early elementary children):
- Did you learn something new about sharks? What
- How are sharks alike and how are they different?
- How are people alike?
- How are people different?
- How can you tell if people are alike or different?
- Why do you think God created 500 different types of sharks?
- Why did God create each person special and different?
Prepared by Kim Stamey, MDiv and MACE, Entering Cohort – 2003