Jess Keating has written another outstanding nonfiction picture book for young readers. This one tells the story of Eugenie Clark, who fell in love with sharks as a young girl and pursued her dream to study them.
Picture book, biography, nonfiction
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 3.7
4 out of 5 stars
Keating starts the book with young Eugenie Clark visiting an aquarium and seeing her favorite animals, the sharks. Eugenie loves to fantasize that she is swimming with sharks, or that she herself has a fin on her back and is a shark. She reads all the books she can find about sharks, and her mother buys her a fish tank so she can study and understand more about fish.
As she pursues her interest in college by studying zoology, we learn that people tried to discourage her because “some of her professors thought women weren’t smart enough to be scientists or brave enough to explore the oceans. And they said sharks were mindless monsters.” Clark went on to prove all those theories were incorrect — she was smart and brave enough, and through her research and studies she proved that sharks were smart and could be trained the way a dog was trained.
Keating wraps up Clark’s story when she was able to prove that she could train a shark. More details are provided in a timeline at the back of the book. An Author’s Note and Bibliography is also provided to give more interesting details and for further reading.
I read in another review that Keating left out key information about Clark’s mother being of Japanese descent and her father an “American” and how this mixed heritage meant she encountered prejudice. While I was interested in this information when it was presented in the Author’s Note, I did not feel that its absence detracted from the author’s purpose.
The tone of the book is clearly for younger children, I would say from age 4 through 8 primarily. I see this book as being more about encouraging children to pursue their dreams and not to let anyone stand in their way. This is especially true for girls in the field of science. Other books are mentioned in her bibliography that would be more appropriate for older readers who are more able to tackle multiple agendas in a story. For the length of a picture book, Keating has focused on the message that she wanted to share.
The illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens really match the tone of the text. The sharks in the story have round eyes, giving the animals an innocent look that matches Clark’s feelings towards them. I also love how the illustrator shows Clark as a child always surrounded by sharks. The scne where Clark is reading books about sharks i the library, includes sharks floating through the book stacks, showing the reader that they were always on Clark’s mind.
The illustrations, combined with the text make this a good introduction to a little known scientist in the field of sharks. There are some additional shark facts that are presented in the back of the book that children will also find fascinating.
Shark lady: The true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean’s most fearless scientist
written by Jess Keating; illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2017