Shark Books for Kids

Kids know: sharks are “cool”. It’s hardly surprising that there are almost as many kids’ books about sharks as there are about dinosaurs. Although most shark books for kids feature lots of glossy photos and attractive diagrams, they vary enormously in the quality and quantity of information they contain. Plus there’s the problem that a book suitable for a six-year-old is probably of little use to a ten-year-old and one suitable for a ten-year-old is probably of limited use to a 12-year-old. Following are brief capsule reviews of some of the best recent shark books for kids, arranged by age range of suitability from youngest to oldest (Age Range given is for self-reading; if read aloud with a parent’s help, younger children may get much out of a book rated for older kids). To aid choosing a book suitable for a given reading level, I am including a representative paragraph from each book reviewed. Books are rated according to scientific accuracy of the text and illustrations as well as the balance of and readability of their content. Although the newest books are not always the best, I have chosen 1990 as the arbitrary cut-off point for books included here. I hope that parents will find this section of help when their little one has a sharky project due or otherwise gets ‘turned onto’ the wonders of sharks. The ten-year-old shark enthusiast of today may become the scientist of tomorrow.

Book Rating System:

An absolute Must Have!
Excellent book!  A valued addition to any library.
Pretty good.  A few problems, but doesn't really interfere with the overall value of the book.
Not great, but has some unusual content not found elsewhere.  
Poor.  Recommend that you save the money for something else.


So awful that I can't describe it using "polite" language!


By Title:

By Author:

Collins Gem: Sharks, by Geoffrey W. Potts and Silja Swaby

Concise Collection: Sharks, by Rodney Steel

Eyewitness Books: Shark, by Miranda MacQuitty

Firefly Pocket Guide: Sharks, by Joyce Pope

Great White Sharks, by Marie Levine

Investigate Sharks, by Greg Pyers

Nature Watch: Sharks, by Michael Bright

Reader's Digest Pathfinders: Sharks and Other Sea Creatures, by Leighton Taylor

Sharks, by Erik D. Stoops and Sherrie Stoops

A Visual Introduction to Sharks, Skates and Rays, by Bernard Stonehouse

Bright, Michael. Nature Watch: Sharks

Levine, Marie. Great White Sharks

MacQuitty, Miranda. Eyewitness Books: Shark

Pope, Joyce. Firefly Pocket Guide: Sharks

Potts, Geoffrey W. and Silja Swaby. Collins Gem: Sharks

Pyers, Greg. Investigate Sharks

Steel, Rodney. Concise Collection: Sharks

Stonehouse, Bernard. A Visual Introduction to Sharks, Skates and Rays

Stoops, Erik and Sherrie. Sharks

Taylor, Leighton. Reader's Digest Pathfinders: Sharks and Other Sea Creatures


Sharks, by Erik D. Stoops and Sherrie Stoops, 1994 (Sterling Publishing, New York)

Arranged in an easy-to-use question-and-answer format, this book offers brief, easy-to-read answers to just the sort of questions kids ask (“Do sharks throw up?”) as well as many that they might not have thought of yet but are nonetheless important to understanding sharks as animals (“How does the lateral line work?”). The information is generally accurate and always very clearly presented. Includes many beautiful photos with informative captions. Of special note are the elegant anatomical diagrams of illustrator Jeffrey L. Martin, which are accurate and informative. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this book is that it can be used and enjoyed by kids with widely differing reading skills (school librarians, take note). Includes index. Age Range: 6-12.

Sample Text:  "Are sharks smart? Yes, experiments show that they can recognize and remember patterns and shapes.  Lemon Sharks have been taught to ring bells, press targets and even swim through mazes to receive rewards of food."

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Investigate Sharks, by Greg Pyers, 2000 (Whitecap Books, North Vancouver).

Originally produced by Random House Australia, this colorful little book really showcases the wondrous diversity of sharks, depicting many species not usually included in popular shark books. The text is crisply written and generally accurate. The illustrations by Greg Bridges are dynamic and - barring distortions for dramatic effect - often astoundingly accurate, giving a real sense of how living sharks look and behave. Scattered throughout the book are bubbles labeled "Look Again" which pose questions that extend the text or invite discovery through closer examination of the illustrations. The center of the book includes a removable sheet of 8 shark stickers reproduced from the book, which could be used to illustrate a school project, and the back of the book includes brief instructions for making one's own cuddly shark toy. Includes a glossary, list of books and websites for further information, and an index. Age Range: 8-10.

Sample Text:  "Are they man-eaters?  Great white sharks have a reputation as 'man-eaters' and it is true that they have attacked and killed humans off the coasts of California, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  However, these attacks are extremely rare.  In fact, many more great whites are killed by humans every year, so much so that the future survival of this species is under threat."

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Eyewitness Books: Shark, by Miranda MacQuitty, 1992 (Dorling Kindersley, London).

Packed with gorgeous, full-color photos and fascinating tidbits of information, this is a terrific book for browsing. As with other volumes in the series, this book resembles an exceptionally rich museum exhibit between covers. All the essential information about sharks is here: definition, relatives, evolution, anatomy, swimming, senses, reproduction, feeding, enemies and profiles of many of the more interesting species. But, in addition to the obligate sections on shark attacks and safety, the book also includes shark artifacts, studying sharks, commercal exploitation of sharks, and shark-related projects for readers to try. Numerous quaint antiquarian illustrations, artifacts, and factoids are among the most unusual aspects of this book. In fact, there are so many odd surprises among this books pages, I keep a copy within easy reach should I need one or two to enliven my own writing. Includes an index. Age Range: 10-14.

Sample Text:  "Bark Painting.  The Australian Aborigines painted designs on pieces of bark cut from trees.  In their paintings, they often reveal what is inside an animal.  In this 20th-century bark painting (left), the painter shows the shark's liver, which has two large lobes."

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Reader's Digest Pathfinders: Sharks and Other Sea Creatures, by Leighton Taylor, 2000 (Reader's Digest, Pleasantville).

Originally produced by Weldon Owen of Australia, this large-format book features gorgeous full-color illustrations by many of the finest wildlife illustrators, including Martin Camm, Marc Dando, and Roger Swainston. The text is accurate and easy-to-read, broken into bite-sized chunks. Special features include Word Builders (etymology), Pathfinder (links to related topics in the book), and That's Amazing (surprising factoids). Other nice additions are Close Encounters, which introduce selected shark researchers, and Things to Do, which suggests simple experiments to illustrate principles introduced in the text. The book is divided into three main sections, Introducing Sharks (origin, classification, and diversity), Shark Works (anatomy and physiology), and A Shark's World (ecology and conservation). Overall, this is a splendid first introduction to sharks in the context of how they earn a living in the sea, punctuated with many fun and creative pedagogical features. Includes a good glossary and index. Age Range: 10-12.

Sample Text:  "Ramming in Oxygen.  Large, fast-swimming sharks such as makos and great whites (above) need plenty of oxygen in order to push their muscles harder. This means they must force large volumes of water over their gills.  By swimming fast with their mouths barely open, they can force oxygen-containing water over their gills.  This process is called ram ventilation."

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Nature Watch: Sharks, by Michael Bright, 2000 (Hermes House, London).

For the most part, the contents of this book are unremarkable, only occasionally including some fact or idea that is not in just about every other shark book. Yet the contents are remarkable in one very important respect: in virtually every instance where most popular shark books get a fact not-quite-right, this book gets it exactly right. This unusually high degree of scientific accuracy is undoubtedly due to consultant Ian K. Fergusson of the Shark Trust, a U.K.-based shark research and conservation organization. The photos are uniformly excellent, although many have shown up in countless other shark books and some are cropped very oddly. Had this book had at least one fresh approach to the subject, I would have rated it higher. But there's no question this is as accurate an introduction for kids as one is likely to find. Includes a glossary and index. Age Range: 10-12.

Sample Text:  "Suspended Animation.  The sandtiger shark (Carcharias taurus) and a few others can hold air in their stomachs.  The air acts like a life jacket, helping the shark to hover in the water.  Sandtiger sharks stay afloat without moving, lurking among rocks and caves."

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A Visual Introduction to Sharks, Skates and Rays, by Bernard Stonehouse, 1999 (Checkmark Books, New York).

Featuring the beautiful and accurate full-color illustrations of Martin Camm, this book is a visual feast. But, as importantly, the text by zoologist Stonehouse is both accurate and up-to-date. In attractive two-page spreads, sharks and their flattened cousins, the skates and rays, are characterized, they are compared with teleost (bony fishes), their diversity, anatomy, and distribution is explored. Each major taxonomic group is surveyed in their presumed phylogenetic (evolutionary) order. Skates and rays are covered in a single spread, which does not do justice to their beauty and diversity. The book concludes with a spread on the danger posed by and to sharks. To help young shark enthusiasts conquer some jaw-breaking technical terms, phonetic pronunciation guides appear throughout the text. Includes a brief glossary and index. Age Range: 10-12.

Sample Text:  "Growing Up.  Many sharks start life as eggs, from which baby sharks emerge after several months.  Baby sharks look after themselves independently from the moment of hatching or birth.  They grow very slowly.  Almost every species takes several years to reach maturity and to be able to reproduce.  Then they continue growing, even more slowly, probably until they die.  How do we know how old they are?  Some species add a ring of growth to their vertebrae every year.  Others have been tagged and measured in the wild, then caught later and measured again."

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Collins Gem: Sharks, by Geoffrey W. Potts and Silja Swaby, 1997 (Harper Collins, Glasgow).

A concise, pocket-sized guide, this book describes and illustrates some 240 species of sharks and rays from around the globe. A brief introduction to sharks and rays a followed by profiles of selected species. Species profiles feature one or more full-color illustrations by Sean Milne, introductory remarks, and basic information divided into Size, Distribution, Food, Breeding, and Danger to Humans. The text is generally accurate (if a little dated in places) and Milne's illustrations are accurate and attractive, including lateral profiles and more elaborate paintings depicting sharks and rays in their natural habitats. The species profiles are arranged in evolutionary order and the tops of the pages are color-coded by major taxonomic group. This little book really showcases the diversity of form, pattern, and color exhibited by sharks and rays. Includes suggestions for further reading, a glossary, and an index to species. Age Range: 12-14+.

Sample Text:  "Sandtiger Shark Eugomphodus taurus.  A large, heavy-bodied sharks with a mouth containing conspicuous teeth giving it the alternative name of Snaggle-tooth Shark.  The body is mostly pale brown, but spotted individuals have been recorded.  This species is common singly, or in large schools, in inshore waters over coral and rocky reefs where it is most active at night."

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Great White Sharks, by Marie Levine, 1998 (Weigel Educational Publishers, Calgary)

Written in clean, elegant prose, shark researcher Marie Levine has done a splendid job summarizing many of the latest findings about the celebrated Great White Shark. With admirable brevity, Levine covers the basics of the White Shark's ancestry, classification, size, shape, coloration, special adaptations, senses, body language, mating, development and birth, habitat, food, hunting, role in ocean ecology, distribution, status and conservation. She also discusses how the Great White is studied in the wild and in captivity, its role in folklore, and what readers can do to help protect this rare and spectacular predator. Levine presents some rather sophisticated concepts in deceptively simple language. The photographs and diagrams are informative and include few of the many 'overused' images found in just about every other shark book. Includes glossary, suggested readings, and index. Age Range: 12-14.

Sample Text:  "Not long ago scientists thought great white sharks were solitary animals that lived and hunted alone.  Scientists are now learning that great white sharks are social animals.  They form complex relationships and use body language to communicate."

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Firefly Pocket Guide: Sharks, by Joyce Pope, 1997 (Firefly Books, Willowdale).

Produced by Dorling Kindersley of London, this little book is great for exploring sharks by people with big imaginations and little hands. Profusely illustrated with clear, informative photos and diagrams, the text is divided into bite-sized sections and organized into seven main sections: Introduction, Anatomy, Living and Surviving, Sharks and Humans, Shark Directory, Sharks for the Future, and a Reference Section. An astonishing amount of good, solid information is packed into a compact product of 128 pages, including Shark Records, Places You Can See Sharks, and Organizations Interested in Sharks. Includes a glossary, suggested readings, and an excellent Index. Age Range: 12-14.

Sample Text:  "All animals live to rhythms dictated by the sun and the seasons.  These are translated into patterns of behavior such as sleeping, breeding, and migrating.  Even the lives of deep-sea sharks are regulated by their body clocks."

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Concise Collection: Sharks, by Rodney Steel, 1995 (Grange Books, London).

After a brief, one-page introduction to sharks, this book offers detailed profiles of 40 selected shark species, arranged in alphabetical order by vernacular name. The text, by vertebrate paleontologist Steel, is generally quite accurate. The illustrations are uniformly very good to excellent. Some choices of vernacular name are at odds with common usage, which could create difficulties in looking up a particular species. The single biggest flaw of this book is that the Megamouth and Luminous (=Cookiecutter) shark illustrations have been swapped and some of the photos do not depict the species under discussion in the text. Age Range: 12+.

Sample Text:  "On fine days porbeagles are frequently seen near the surface, swimming with the dorsal fin exposed.  They provide indifferent sport, proving sluggish when hooked and never jumping.  Additional species of porbeagle occur in the Pacific."

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To Purchase Any of These Books:

Please contact your local, Independent  Bookseller about Special Ordering  the book(s) you want.  Independent Booksellers are the life's blood that keeps publishers and authors in Business; they  need and deserve your support.

Otherwise, try:  Natural History Book Services, or Barnes and Noble

If You'd Like One of Your Books Reviewed Here:

Publishers who would like one of their books reviewed here are invited to contact R. Aidan Martin directly to arrange for a review copy.  The only condition is that Aidan be free to express his honest, unadulterated opinion about any book submitted for review.

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ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research
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