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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Great White Shark Scientist, words by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Keith Ellenbogen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2016. $26.99 ages 10 and up

"Though in recent summers sightings have prompted beach closings several times a season, Greg thinks that great whites could be harmlessly passing near busy beaches remarkably often, unseen and unsuspected."

I have long touted the Scientists in the Field series as a set of books that deserve space and attention. There are now more than forty of them, each affording both kids and adults a chance to learn a great deal about a wide variety of creatures. The scientists who give their lives to studying them are amazing people. Their work is admirable and helps to change the way that people of the world think about the environment and the protection of their remarkable subjects.

Since it's SHARK WEEK on the Discovery Channel, and because I recently posted a book of new shark poetry, I thought I would suggest this book to add to your list for purchase. Dr. Greg Skomal and his team have much to share about those ocean creatures who strike fear in the hearts of many. Greg has been studying sharks for thirty-nine years, and his favorite is the great white:

"Great whites are not at all what people say about them," Greg stresses. "They're not hyper, all curmudgeonly and angry and wanting to kill something. They're not like that at all! I've never met one like that. They're laid back. They're calm. They're beautiful."

Many others would take an opposing view ... likely skewed by movies such as Jaws. Greg's chance to study only the great whites is the focus of Sy Montgomery's new addition to this eye-opening, absorbing scientific series. She describes the seven days with shark specialists, beginning July 8 and ending the following January 6. As she has done so often, Ms. Montgomery writes in a conversational tone that draws her audience to the information she is sharing, and the care taken by the scientists whose work she describes. She, too, wants to understand these much-maligned creatures, and to paint a picture of their beauty from a scientist's perspective ... and she does it in spades. She even gets in a shark cage with biologist Erick Higuera and is astonished at the calm she feels when the sharks are close by.

Keith Ellenbogen’s clear photographs perfectly accompany the text, showing shots of the crew members as they go about the business of their days, views of the water from the boat and from a plane, and the abundant aquatic life that surrounds them.

By knowing more about the great white shark, we learn more about their importance to the ocean itself. Greg Skomal is living the dream for all young shark enthusiasts! His work will hopefully help to estimate the population and their territorial range, by tagging these sharks off the coast of Cape Cod. As the great whites come back from near extinction, they will learn how and why that is happening. Why do we need to save them? You will have a very clear picture of the answers when you share this book with your children at home and at school. It is a fascinating and informative readaloud.

Ms. Montgomery pairs scientific fact with much that will intrigue and surprise her readers ... "Annual average number of people killed by sharks of all species yearly, worldwide: about 11.  Number of sharks of all species killed by people yearly, worldwide: 100 million. Also: Chance of a person being killed by a shark: 1 in 37 million. Chance of a person dying from the flu: 1 in 63.  Think on those statistics for a few moments.

 Back matter includes resources, a section about being Shark Smart, a bibliography, Shark Maps, a list of web searches that will provide further information, and an index.

I thought this was a very enjoyable interview:

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