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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist, written by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. Sourcebooks, Raincoast. 2017. $24.99 ages 5 and up

"A fifteen gallon tank was much too small for sharks, but Eugenie saved her allowance to buy guppies, clown fish, and coral-red snails. It felt as big as an ocean in her room. Their small apartment became an aquarium, a laboratory, and a sanctuary."

I can't imagine it, although I will admit I am fascinated by the passion that Eugenie Clark felt for sharks at a very young age. She saw them while visiting an aquarium in New York; her life changed that day. From then on she did her best to prove that sharks were not the killers so many people thought them to be.

Her path was set. She spent much of her life, despite the many obstacles put in her path, wanting to prove that they were special. As she studied them, she was able to debunk many of the assumptions made about them. People began to refer to her as 'Shark Lady'. Deservedly so!

Her determination, courage and unrelenting research and observations are the basis for this articulate look at her life and work. It was not an easy time for women looking to have a career considered unusual and dangerous. She didn't stop at learning about sharks. She also discovered several new types of fish during her time she spent in the ocean.

Jess Keating ensures that her readers are aware of the gender bias that was prevalent when Eugenie was a young woman seeking a career path that few women were encouraged to follow. But, she persisted and realized her dream, proving to the world that:

"Sharks were not mindless killers.
Sharks were beautiful. Sharks were smart.
They deserved to be studied,
... protected,
... and loved.

And Eugenie's dream
was now a dream come true."

Further to the text of this lively picture book biography, Ms. Keating adds a section on additional 'shark bites' - informative paragraphs that add interest. A time line begins with her birth in May 1922 and follows her throughout her very eventful life, until her death in February 2015. An author's note explains why Eugenie's story is important, and a bibliography offers additional resources for those interested.

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