A successful balancing act between heralding disaster and promoting change—an informative debut.


From the If Animals Disappeared series

Williams guides readers through the multifarious world of sharks and offers a disconcerting glimpse into our world without them.

For approximately 450 million years, sharks have played a role in balancing our oceans’ ecosystems. Following a young ocean enthusiast of color, the text explains that, as predators at the top of their food chain, sharks help maintain the species below them, as they “typically eat sick, slow, or weak prey,” keeping populations healthy and numbers in check. But due to overfishing and other harmful human impacts, more than one-quarter of shark species are approaching extinction—a threat that not only endangers the aquatic ecosystems of which sharks are a part, but could also “spread like a wave…until animals around the globe are affected.” From the beauty of the great white shark to the easy-to-overlook plankton, the cheery illustrations paired with a gently insistent call to action are all the more haunting when they show the bleak future without sharks. The apocalyptic nature of this very real possibility is offset by Williams’ reminder that, for now, sharks are still here—underscored in a gorgeous vertical gatefold depicting a healthy marine ecosystem—and that by remembering the importance of our planet’s trophic reciprocity, readers can keep it that way. Often directly addressing readers in the text, Williams provides an action checklist and bibliography to get them started.

A successful balancing act between heralding disaster and promoting change—an informative debut. (glossary, notes) (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-413-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.


In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders.


Denizens of the deep crowd oversized pages in this populous gallery of ocean life.

The finny and tentacled sea creatures drifting or arrowing through Zommer’s teeming watercolor seascapes are generally recognizable, and they are livened rather than distorted by the artist’s tendency to place human eyes on the same side of many faces, Picasso-like. Headers such as “Ink-teresting” or “In for the krill” likewise add a playful tone to the pithy comments on anatomical features or behavioral quirks that accompany the figures (which include, though rarely, a white human diver). The topical spreads begin with an overview of ocean families (“Some are hairy, some have scales, some have fins and some are boneless and brainless!”), go on to introduce select animals in no particular order from sea horses and dragonets to penguins and pufferfish, then close with cautionary remarks on chemical pollution and floating plastic. The author invites readers as they go to find both answers to such questions as “Why does a crab run sideways?” and also a small sardine hidden in some, but not all, of the pictures. For the latter he provides a visual key at the end, followed by a basic glossary.

A refreshing dive past some of our world’s marine wonders. (index) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65119-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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