100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Review: Shark Vs. Train by Chris Barton

Shark Vs. Train
By Chris Barton
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Little, Brown
ISBN: 978031699007627
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Best New Books*

This just in: lots of kids like to talk trash. Now, I don’t mean that in a “the youth is out of hand!” kind of way. No, this trash talk usually comes into play when youngsters are sticking up for their favorite things. Oreos vs. Hydrox, neon glow worms vs. gummi bears, and so on. I think it’s a good thing that kids can take a position and defend it (especially on that Oreo argument). With humor and originality, Shark Vs. Train taps directly into this mindset and runs with it. Kids will be clamoring to join in on the fun.

Two boys rush to the toy box – one grabs a toy train, the other, a toy shark. Instantly, the trash talk commences. Which is better? It depends on the contest. The subsequent pages bring to life every conceivable (and increasingly absurd) contest in which the two could compete. They’re evenly matched. The high dive? Shark wins. Burping contest? Advantage Train. The back and forth comes to an end only when the boys are called for lunch. Name a kid that hasn’t engaged in this sort of debate.

There is a sense of immersion that is impressive. Once the throw-down begins, the kids themselves disappear. The reader is taken to a world where these events are actually happening. Only when the boys are called for lunch do we come back to reality. This mimics how kids play, and it will feel authentic to young readers.

Lichtenheld’s expressive illustrations have just the right amount of cartoonishness to go along with the humor of the text. A nice match.

Really, Shark Vs. Train is a winner in just every arena. Read aloud potential, shelf appeal, humor -  this book is appealing on a number of levels. I guess it would have trouble with the high dive – but that’s about it.

Review copy from publisher

Click here to read an interview of the author and illustrator at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Watch the (world’s shortest) book trailer:

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I can’t WAIT for my library’s copy of Shark Vs. Train to come in. I hope I’ll enjoy reading out loud as much as I do Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime.


    • I think the level of fun (high) will be pretty similar. I like the “Vs.” storytime theme!

  2. Great review! This looks like one I need to find for the small boys I know.

  3. Such a great book.

  4. Gene Moore says:

    This one taps into that competitive spirit we so often see in small (and not so small) boys! I love the clever match-ups and the fact that each have their own special talents.


  1. […] 100 Scope Notes This just in: lots of kids like to talk trash. … With humor and originality, Shark Vs. Train taps directly into this mindset and runs with it. Kids will be clamoring to join in on the fun. […]