Shawn Loves Sharks (Curtis Manley)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Shawn Loves Sharks, written by Curtis Manley and illustrated by Tracy Subisak, the tale of a young shark enthusiast learning the importance of friendship.

Shawn loves sharks – not just likes them, LOVES them. He has a shark costume, shark documentaries, and 127 books about sharks. He loves their sleek bodies and rows of sharp teeth, and he loves pretending to be a shark and chasing around the other kids at recess, especially Stacy (she gets the most scared). So when his teacher announces that each student will be a report on a predator chosen at random, he is devastated to receive, not a shark, but a leopard seal. And who does draw the shark? Why it’s Stacy, who smugly points out that Great Whites EAT leopard seals. Shawn begs for a switch but, sensing her opportunity for revenge, Stacy refuses. However, as both kids learn more about their predators, they begin to bond over their mutual enthusiasms – until Shawn says something thoughtless and hurts his new friend’s feelings. Feeling guilty, he concludes that sharks and seals, cool as they are, are not people, and apologizes – after all, a shark and seal would never be friends like he and Stacy are.

Adorable yet poignant. Being a kid who was obsessed with animals myself, I identified with Shawn’s passion, as well as how that obsession can affect others. Indeed, Stacy is essentially bullied by Shawn at first, and it’s a nice to see her take her power back, and even better when Shawn realizes that, unlike his deep sea predators, people have feelings and emotions that need to be respected. Seeing the two on the final pages, bonding over their mutual interests while dressed as their respective predators, is heartwarming. The art is wonderfully playful, yet also deftly captures that childlike wonder we feel when awed by nature. The length is great, and JJ loved the sharks and the many opportunities to “chomp chomp CHOMP” along with Shawn and Stacy. A clever friendship parable that embraces childlike curiosity, and we liked it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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