written by Lori Stein
2016 (Liberty Street)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
There are nearly 500 different species of sharks swimming in oceans around the world.
The minute I caught sight of this book, I knew it could be a game changer. How so? Informational text usually comes in picture book size or in the coffee table book size. What's new to me with Sharks! is that it's in the format of a paperback novel with 107 pages of information. Why is that so great? Two big reasons right off the bat. One, the low price ($5.95 list) of the paperback means that upper grade elementary teachers can buy a class set and really dig deep with nonfiction reading and writing. With more books coming in this series of chapter books, teachers can purchase different titles and have students compare books and the knowledge they gather. The second reason why this format is a big deal is that it allows authors to explore a subject with greater depth than if it was a 32 or 48 page book. Chapter two, Sensational Senses, has full paragraphs about each of the shark senses as opposed to one or two sentences. This format allows us to learn more about electroreception where a shark senses the electrical signals sent out by other animals. Sharks can also sense vibrations in the water and changes in the pressure. With their taste buds, they even spit out food they don't like. Sometimes being overly sensitive is a good thing! Other chapters reveal facts that make nonfiction so appealing. Chapter five, Tricky Sharks, gives information about the salmon shark which swims 55 mph. Did you know about the subcategory of catsharks? There's over 150 different kinds of these small sharks which have eyes like cats. One of these, the swell shark, swallows water to double its size and scare off predators. It can also swallow air and expel it to bark like a dog.
Having informational text in a paperback format will pull in readers who need a simpler text, but don't want to be seen with a 32 or 48 page book. You also get the photographs and text boxes that you expect with nonfiction. With a companion piece, Dinosaurs!, also available, readers will want to take a bite out of this new series of chapter books.