Review: Shark Vs. Train by Chris Barton
This just in: lots of kids like to talk trash. Now, I donâ€™t mean that in a â€œthe youth is out of hand!â€ 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 itâ€™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. Theyâ€™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 hasnâ€™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 -Â 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
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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 email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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