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Diving into Wonder: A Review of Shark Lady

I often grieve the loss of a sense of wonder in today’s society. Much of this loss I blame on such technology as the smartphone, where at any time, one can find the answer to their questions. What if, however, we decided to just imagine something or even guess? What if we found books that showed our children the joy found in the imagination? What would it feel like to dive into a big pool of “wonder”?

Image courtesy of Sourcebooks, illustrations by Marta Álvarez Miguéns

“So she dove…”, becomes the mantra of Shark Lady by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns. Shark Lady tells the story of marine biologist and shark expert, Eugenie Clark, whose curiosity in sharks takes hold as a child, and continues to grow with her as well as the reader as the book goes on.

The reader first meets young Eugenie with a visit to the aquarium, which lights the fire of her passion for sharks. As Eugenie walks through the aquarium, she pretends to be a shark, an anecdote accompanied by a surrealist image of sharks swimming alongside her. I love how this importance of imagination is implied from the beginning, and is used in both story and artwork.

Image courtesy of Sourcebooks, illustrations by Marta Álvarez Miguéns

The writing in the story overall is poetic, ripe with strings of alliteration and words full of sounds that pop when read, striking a wonder-filled playful tone. There is the repeated phrase of “she dove”, with a variety of endings to this phrase kept until the reader turns the page, encouraging the reader to make their own predictions in this gap.

Image courtesy of Sourcebooks, illustrations by Marta Álvarez Miguéns

There is also the theme of defiance. Throughout the story, Eugenie repeatedly “dives deeper” to show her level of commitment to sharks, and to upending the male-centered science fields. She also seeks to show a true image of what sharks really are, by revealing sharks can in fact stay still, and that they are smart enough to train. Eugenie’s perseverance and commitment are very well noted within the book.

But–this all started with that seed of wonder. Nothing would have happened in Eugenie’s life without it. Because of that, I thought I would try an exercise in wonder with my kids as a response to this book.

Image courtesy of Sourcebooks, illustrations by Marta Álvarez Miguéns

Activity: Coral Reef Craft

The coral reef illustrations of the book captivated me from the start, as they frame just about any picture of Eugenie in the water. I had seen some examples of coral reef crafts online, like this one, and decided to adapt to building our own coral reef, using materials we already had on hand. I pretty much dumped all sorts of craft materials, as well as the recycling bin, for my kids to build a coral reef with.

It took off! Fairly soon, the glue was being passed around the table, and we were working together to figure out how to make a coral reef-looking object out of the things we had, and we were trouble-shooting how best to adhere things to our base. The other thing I found was that after we completed an initial scene, we would occasionally find something that we think would suit our scene well, and add it in. We began to have a coral-reef praxis, you might say.

Overall, this activity made me note how a sense of wonder goes hand in hand with mindfulness. And in my opinion, mindfulness makes us stop and see the gifts we have around us, and the community that will encourage us to succeed in whatever our passion is. So go ahead, read Shark Lady, be inspired, and create something good!

Shark Lady, as well as this activity highlight Ocean Literacy Principle #5: The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems. This activity would be a great afternoon activity with second graders, covering the Life Science Next Generation Science Standard of 2-LS4-1: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.


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