A comprehensive and fun look at a misunderstood animal.
Almost everyone has a favorite animal. Some people love cute animals, others love the biggest or the fastest. Joe Flood loves sharks, so much so that he wrote and drew a comic about them.
Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter is one of the latest in First Second Books’ Science Comics line. The aim of the book is to educate the reader about sharks, explaining that they don’t just begin or end with the Great White. While the main role of the book is to help the reader learn more about sharks, it also aims to communicate the perils that sharks now find themselves in due to the influence of human endeavors.
Sharks is incredibly comprehensive in the breadth of knowledge it contains. The section on shark anatomy and biology is impressively detailed. Even more impressive is that it’s easy to understand, thanks to the use of diagrams and clear descriptions. Covering aspects such as reproduction, evolution, the peculiarities of different species (and the eight different orders), feeding techniques and even how sharks are perceived, portrayed and abused by humans. Honestly, I didn’t expect this children’s book to cover so much and be so clear and interesting.
It’s obvious that Flood is fascinated by sharks and that really comes through in this book. He uses multiple characters with different perspectives to help deliver the information, but they don’t become the focus. Some of the analogies are pretty clever and I love how he litters the book with historical facts. In fact, one of his achievements is that the book doesn’t just educate you about sharks. In addition to talking about how movies affect people’s opinions, it gives a decent introduction to fish evolution, and there’s even a small bit on human migration, believe it or not.
The art does a good job of conveying the information. It’s a constant balancing act between accurate depictions of sharks and some sillier elements, but it never falls flat. The cutaways and diagrams are slick and clear, which really improves the delivery of the information. The whole book is helped by the way the text boxes are spread out, making Sharks quick and easy to read, without dominating the art.
In terms of the target audience, I’d say this book skews towards slightly older readers, like pre-teens and above. That’s partly due to the detail and level of information, and partly because the book doesn’t shy away from gore. It’s not massively graphic, but the art doesn’t hide the fact that sharks are messy eaters. I also imagine that some adults might not like to explain why some sharks eat their siblings in the womb.