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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Neighborhood Sharks, written and illustrated by Katheine Roy. David Macalulay Studio, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $20.50 ages 9 and up

"EVERY SEPTEMBER, the great white sharks return to San Francisco. Their hunting grounds, the Farallon Islands, are just 30 miles from the city. While their 800,000 human neighbors dine on steak, salad, and sandwiches, the white sharks hunt for their favorite meal."

Besides nonfiction books about dinosaurs, is any subject more enticing to children than sharks? Those books are always a huge hit. They are not always as accomplished and informative as this extraordinary book about the 'great whites of California's Farallon Islands'.

Just take a long look at that cover image, and tell me that you are not interested in learning more. If you weren't fascinated before, you are sure to be drawn in by the brilliant research done to tell this truly riveting story. Being able to combine that research with stunning full-color, meticulous images
done in watercolor, pen and ink, and gouache is a feat that has rarely been accomplished with such beauty and power.

"From sunup to sundown sharks
circle the shores, stalking their
unsuspecting prey.
They cut through the water in
total silence ...
... until, all at once, they strike."

I wonder if you are thinking that this is clear and concise text, and just right for informing young readers about one of their favorite subjects ... the great white shark. You would be right, until you make a page turn, then another. There, you will come face to face with explanatory paragraphs concerning the feeding frenzy that takes place every fall when those sharks follow the seals and sea lions that make the Farallon Islands their breeding grounds.

Turn the page again, and Katherine Roy provides text  and carefully captioned artwork explaining the perfect body belonging to these terrifying creatures of  the sea. The center section looks clearly at the many weapons that a shark has at its disposal to be a 'perfect killer'. The information is so shrewdly shared that you may never want to go in the ocean again. If you weren't frightened of sharks before you knew so much about them, you might quickly change your mind. There is tension here. It is sure to make the reader uneasy at times.

There is nothing in her book that will scare her young readers, or bamboozle them. Every bit of text and every single piece of art is designed to inform and educate without ever causing readers to be overwhelmed by what is being shared. I was engaged at every turn of the page, and I know that Ms. Roy's audience is sure to feel the same.

Backmatter includes an author's note, an insightful explanation for not discussing the shark's sense of smell, Selected Sources, Further Reading, Online Resources and a map of the Farallon Islands.

This is a book worthy of everyone's attention. It is brilliantly designed, impeccably written and superbly illustrated.  Impressive? Most assuredly! Beautiful? Indeed it is. You NEED to see this book!

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