A young boy obsessed with sharks becomes one in this tale about hard work and perseverance.
Nate’s bedroom is decorated with sharks; he reads books about them, watches TV shows about them, and spouts shark facts. His behavior can also be somewhat sharklike. But as his older brother, Alex, points out, “I’m the only real Shark in this family.” From the poster, photo, trophies, and uniform and duffel in Alex’s room, it’s clear that he’s talking about a swim team, and Nate can’t swim. But he has a plan to learn, and readers follow along with his swim lessons for a week as he learns the basics. Following Nate’s initial forays into the pool, Cattie and Luebbe skip the details and the hard work of Nate “practicing his tail off for weeks” and fast-forward to his first attempt to swim by himself. Of course he’s successful, and three full-page illustrations show his growing confidence and ability. And then there’s tryouts for the Sharks. Improbably, as the crowd cheers his titular nickname, he blows past Alex and becomes an official Shark. Nate’s tale is followed by a double-page spread of shark facts. Duncan’s characters are expressive in his scribbly illustrations. Nate and his family present white; the swim team is diverse.
Though the ending is too feel-good, the message that hard work pays off is clear; here’s hoping readers understand its limits as well. (Picture book. 4-8)