To get ready for World Oceans Day, next Monday June 8, 2015, let’s look at two very different children’s picture books about sharks. Interestingly, both of these books were illustrated by the author.

First up, we have Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands written and illustrated by Katherine Roy.

Great white sharks are fierce predators and this book reflects reality. Right up front, the cover sets the tone for this book, showing a shark with something in its mouth and a suggestion of red blood in the water. Some of the illustrations within the book show the sharks grabbing and eating seals (see a time lapse video at YouTube of Katherine Roy creating one of the illustrations). Certain children are going to find this thrilling and others are probably not. As with any book with potentially disturbing images, it is a good idea to prepare young readers in advance and let them choose whether they want to continue.

That is not to say that this book is about gratuitous violence. In fact, it contains a number of fascinating scientific illustrations detailing the body of the shark, how its blood circulates to help heat up this cold-blooded fish, how its eyes work, how its teeth work, and what makes its jaws unique. Learning facts about any animal definitely helps make it less fearsome.

Neighborhood Sharks has won many awards and honors, including:

Age Range: 7 – 11 years
Publisher: David Macaulay Studio (September 30, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1596438746
ISBN-13: 978-1596438743

In direct contrast, Wandering Whale Sharks written and illustrated by Susumu Shingu is a gentle book for younger children that follows the largest fish in the world, the whale shark. It was originally published in Japan in 1991, and has recently be translated and republished by Owlkids Books Inc.

Beginning with the lines…

What human beings believe
is the surface of the sea
might just be a ceiling of air
for all the fish living below.

…the reader is taken on a beautiful journey through the ocean depths to meet a placid giant and its friends.

The illustrations largely feature black and blue, giving the feeling of being completely under water. The images are incredibly peaceful and the text lyrical, making the book a lovely choice for reading aloud to a group of children.

The back matter consists of a page of factual information about whale sharks, such as how big they are, where they are found, and how fast they swim (around 2 1/2 miles per hour). Like whales, whale sharks swim the worlds oceans feeding on krill and tiny fish with their large mouths. Unlike whales, they are fish and do not have to return to the surface to breathe. The last sentence in the back matter is particularly poignant as the author points out there is much we don’t know much about these fish and currently they are vulnerable to extinction.

Wandering Whale Sharks is the type of informational picture book that is likely to appeal to a variety of audiences. Highly recommended!

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Owlkids Books (March 17, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1771471301
ISBN-13: 978-1771471305


Short, but informative video about whale sharks (there may be a pop-up ad)


Be sure to check our Growing with Science ocean science and beach science categories (with some overlap) for many ocean and beach themed-activities.

We also have a growing list of children’s books about oceans at Science Books for Kids.

Finally, we recently had Beach Book Week at Wrapped in Foil, with a list of beach science books and a review of The Beach Book: loads of things to do at lakes, rivers and the seaside.

Disclosures: The books above were from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.