Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review:The Shark In the Park

Writing fiction for small children might seem to some like an easy outing for a writer, being that most books for children only have about one or two lines a page and are made up of fantastical and whimsical subject matter that does not have to follow some of the usual rules of writing a story, nor be as sophisticated as those for an older audience.

Like most tasks that seem easy from afar, the task of telling a story in such a short number of words is actually quite a feat, something that takes effort and extreme concentration. Engaging an adult reader in two hundred pages can be quite a task but imagine an author's burden when he writes for children. Not only must he craft a complete tale in a limited space but also hold the imagination and attention of a small child in a world filled with electronic distractions. 

The Shark in the Park is a book that manages to not only accomplish the above but do so in such a way that both words and images are stuck in your brain well after you have read it out loud to your child before bedtime or read the story together on a rainy afternoon.

Mike is an average school boy on his way to school who discovers that the local park contains more then just the swings and the round about, it also contains a fearsome shark who is just as happy swimming through grass as salt water.

Extraordinary situations and events have been the basis of tales written for the younger set since the genre began and The Shark in the Park really does as a concept feel immediately at home on the shelf next to such extraordinary classics such as The Cat in the Hat and Where the Wild Things Are.

Partially this is achieved by a familiarity in the narrative that connects the book with the younger reader or the child dormant in all of us. How many of us can recall the daydreams and pretend adventures we had on the way to school, how many of us have seen a monster down that particularity dark alley we have to cross on our way home from our grandparent's house?

Beyond childhood nostalgia the book also has a deep current of bravery and triumph to give the book a positive educational punch as well, as Mike battles the Shark as well as his own fear.

This is accompanied by some really gorgeous visuals, which are top notch in execution while aptly illustrating what is going on in the text. Illustration is crucial to the well conceived book for children as not only must in convey what is written in the text portion of the book but also must say much more as well.

Being well read as as child I recall spending a lot of time with my books way back when, not just reading the text but also studying the pictures and the small details within them, such as the items in the background of a room or on a bookshelf, soaking in the entire experience of the book itself.

Combined these aspects make for a top notch book that any parent should be happy to purchase knowing that not only will their child enjoy the story but also that the parent might get a bit of nostalgia as well for those days when the creaking of an old door was a robot stalking your bed in the night or the shadows on your window were the result on alien invaders.

I highly recommend purchasing this excellent book for your children or for the eternal child that resides in all of us...just mind the grass after reading it eh?

The Shark in the Park is available now from Amazon US, UK and ES. 

-Thomas Spychalski 

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