On Earth Day 2020, I read two books: World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky with illustrations by Frank Stockton, and A Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks by Bernard Séret and illustrated by Julien Solé. I’ve already talked about the first book, so now let me talk about this little book about sharks.
When it says little, they mean it, with a short forward this book has about 82 pages of content and fits in a small bag. Originally written in French, this book was recently translated to English and they added a forward by David Vandermeulen that explains some of the history behind our current shark hysteria. The translations are pretty good, I almost forgot they weren’t written in English.
Truly an unique read, I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before. Imagine a documentary on sharks where the focus is on a leading French marine biologist roaming around as he speaks. Now, imagine that documentary in the form of a comic book and that’s what this book is. A Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks takes scientific literature and combines it with a graphic novel to create something new.
The illustrations are beautiful! Julien Solé did a wonderful job portraying the sharks with such detail, but not too much to distract from the rest of the book. The coloring is simple, and they depict so many different kinds of sharks and scenarios. Truly, this alone could entertain young children for hours!
Unfortunately, even though it is written like a graphic novel, I believe that children may have a hard time understanding the language of the book. There will probably be some terms and concepts that might even be hard for some adults to get right away. But this in itself isn’t a bad thing because it provides an opportunity for people to learn more on their own. Let me explain.
Something I’ve noticed with the many young people that I’ve encountered over the years is that they know a lot more than you think, especially if they’re crazy about it. I once had a conversation with an 8 year old child who knew more about the wobbegong (an Australian shark) than I did, even knew the scientific name, diet, and relationship with the Aborigines. They were so excited to talk to someone about the shark, especially someone they knew could follow along and talk back to them about it. I tell this story because I see this book sparking similar interests in other children.
I believe that this book can spark the interest of thousands of children with the illustrations alone—they’re absolutely fabulous! Even if the young person doesn’t understand the harder terminology, I believe that the sparked interest will eventually lead them to finding out what they mean on their own and that’s wonderful. Nothing brings me more joy than knowing that someone doesn’t just stop after the first step, that they continue finding out information on their own or with additional help and I believe that’s the purpose of this book.
I recommend it as a gift for any child you think might love sharks. They will enjoy the illustrations, and it’ll give you an excuse to help them learn more things together. I recommend that any parent or older adult reads this book with their kids so that you can share a new found love for sharks, because they are truly amazing creatures. Yes, some of the more complex topics might be hard to understand but hopefully the illustrations will help. In the end, I think it’ll be worth it.