Picture Book Review: Shark Nate-O

Shark Nate-OTara Luebbe & Becky Cattie (authors), Daniel Duncan (illus.), Little Bee Books, 2018

Synopsis: Nate loves sharks. He reads shark books every day, watches sharks on TV, and talks about them nonstop. He even likes to pretend he’s a shark wherever he goes! However, there is one small problem. . . . Nate can’t swim.

Shark Nate-O, written by talented sister duo Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, might have been first released in the U.S., but it is the perfect book for the Australian market. It’s about sharks, and about swimming – the perfect combination for our water-obsessed country!

In the book, Nate is obsessed with sharks, which we see from the text as well as the fun illustrations. However, he soon realises that if he really wants to be a shark (both the animal, and part of the school Sharks swim team), he needs to be able to swim. This isn’t a small matter, considering Nate is afraid of the water.

The book covers Nate’s hard work and determination as he overcomes his fears bit by bit, and reaches for his goals. I adore all the shark-related language throughout that alludes to, and cleverly begins to teach kids about, the various types of shark species. For instance, “He thrashed about like a thresher shark” and “he paddled like a predator.”

There is lots of humour to keep kids chuckling too (this is a big part of the authors’ style); plus kids who are obsessed with the ocean and different sea creatures are also sure to want to read the book over and over again. Hopefully, it will also help encourage other children to become more interested in sea life.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the very last spread – here, readers find two pages of facts about sharks, with pictures and notes about the various species mentioned throughout the book. This makes the story perfect for schools as well as home learning and enjoyment.

I’m sure parents, teachers, and other caregivers will enjoy how the story can be used to prompt discussions about a variety of topics too. Apart from learning to swim, beach safety, sharks, and the ocean, the book also highlights themes of perseverance, self-believe, determination, confidence, and overcoming fears. I liked the use of the swim coach as the supportive adult in the story too. While it’s always nice to see parents, teachers and friends represented in picture books, it’s also good to show children they can learn and receive encouragement from other adults in their lives.

The illustrations in Shark Nate-O were artfully created by Daniel Duncan. His vibrant pictures have a cartoon-like quality that really adds to the humour in the text, and while there are plenty of fun details throughout, there is enough white space that young readers won’t get overwhelmed. Duncan’s illustration style also works well to convey Nate’s varying emotions throughout, both the ups and the downs.

All in all, this is a layered picture book that children will get more out of on each read through. Plus, with such a great name, there will no doubt be plenty of adults out there who want to buy the book for themselves or other fans of the pulpy Sharknado film series!

Recommended for kids aged around three to four years and up.

Please note: a complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.