Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Review: Shark Vs. Train

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton, and Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator)

Last weekend I was in Chicago visiting friends, and they have 2 kids, ages 3 and 1. For the last 3 years when I visit her, in lieu of a hostess gift, I bring picture books for her kids, and everyone seems very happy with this arrangement (especially Thomas, the three-year-old.) Unbeknownst to me, Thomas has recently become slightly obsessed with sharks (and whales and dolphins and other large fishy creatures). What can I say - I am very in tune with three-year-olds.
So the wordless bookends set up the "plot" of this book: 2 little boys are pulling toys out of a toy box, and one pulls out a train, one a shark, and away we go! Who is better at...
  • pulling a train?
  • swimming underwater?
  • bowling?
  • selling lemonade?
  • going hot-air-ballooning?
  • sword fighting on a tightrope?
Obviously, the scenarios become increasingly absurd. Which Thomas just loved! I did have to explain to him what is a tightrope and a hot-air-balloon, and why the Shark's lemonade become "watery". But he loved the space exploring and the basketball. As an adult, I loved the funny little jokes such as on the last spread, the protagonists are on motorcycles jumping over several cars and trucks, one of which says on the side: "A. Fonzerelli Leather Jackets" hehe. And I adored the caboose which sometimes made funny little asides and occasionally declined to participate in whatever Train was doing. Thomas seemed to get the arc where the competitions start off ordinary, become silly, then ridiculous, and finally scary and like a good time to stop. That arc is in no way explicitly spelled out, but it's well implied. The illustrations are so terrific that you almost don't even need the words (in fact, after the fifth reading, I made Thomas tell me what was happening instead of me reading the book yet again, and he had zero trouble with that.)
Here is a very short trailer for the book:
And the official one, which shows some interior illustrations:

This book was a huge hit, and the puns and humor helped keep the reader intertained even after multiple readings.
Kid Konnection
This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.


Julie P. said...

How adorable. I think my son would like this one too! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi, This is Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of Shark Vs. Train. Thank you for covering our book; it's always great to hear feedback.
You can see all my books at tomlichtenheld.com, and keep up with me at my blog, http://tomlichtenheld.wordpress.com/
Thanks again!
- Tom L.

Carin Siegfried said...

Hi Tom! Thanks for stopping by! I really, truly enjoyed your book and so did my young friend. I also really like Duck Rabbit, and I'll be keeping eye out for the rest of yours on my next bookstore visit! Keep drawing please!