Did you know Shark Week has been around since 1988? This is a week-long celebration of sharks that takes place on hte Discovery Channel every July. Shark Week began as a program to encourage shark conservation efforts and to correct misconceptions about these incredible creatures. It is still going on this summer: July 23-30, 2023. You can see Wikipedia for the history of the program.
I think these creatures are fascinating, so I've been scouring the library for some of the best picture books I could find that will also help correct misconceptions. I've carefully selected books that offer unique perspectives, stunning illustrations, and intriguing facts about these misunderstood creatures. Whether you're a curious child or an adult fascinated by marine life, I hope this list will help you celebrate your own "Shark Week" in your home this summer!
Favorite Shark Picture Books
These picture books are some of my favorites that I've found. Any of them would work well as a read-aloud book for one of more children. Check out your library to get one of these books, or click the cover image to buy it. (When possible, I link to Bookshop.org, which provides funding to local, independent bookstores; I also am an affiliate.)
How to Survive as a Shark by Kristen Foote, illustrated by Erica Salcedo (Innovation press, 2017). This is an amusing “training manual” for newborn sharks, teaching them what they need to know to survive on their own. The main dialogue is between a “teacher” shark dressed like a pirate and a few young ones. The amusing pirate approach to the storyline and the entire concept of babies been “taught” how to survive gives it a child-like feel that kids will like. Additional information and vocabulary on the edges of the story make it a valuable non-fiction books for kids a variety of ages. Approached a few pages at a time, even preschoolers will enjoy the story.
Sharks by Gail Gibbons (updated in 2020). Using her characteristic illustrations and clear descriptions, Gibbons begins with history and covers multiple details about sharks. She explains the difference between sharks and other fish, how sharks use their many senses to find food and eat it, the differences in sharks teeth, and the different way sharks are born. She also illustrates nearly a dozen different sharks on the pages and explains their differences.
Sea Creatures from the Sky by Ricardo Cortes. This beautifully illustrated book shares a tale told from the perspective of a shark that has been temporarily caught by marine biologists in order to be tagged. There are a limited number of words on each page, and the kids will love the shark’s warning about the scary creatures, since the image shows humans! This is a great introduction for young readers to learn the concept of tagging sea creatures in order to learn more about marine life.
Sharks Have Six Senses by John F. Waters (Level 2 Let’s Read and Find Out). The pages have paragraphs of multiple sentences, but the facts behind multiple kinds of sharks are covered in this book. Some of the basics include the food chain, gills to swim, how a shark uses its senses (including electroreception) to find its food, and the fact that sharks are mostly safe to humans. The illustrations highlight a different shark on each page and further facts and a glossary follow the main text. Good for middle elementary level.
If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams. Stating with an overview of shark history from the big bang to today, this book covers the facts about the effects of overfishing on the shark population. It teaches about the numbers of species that are near extinction, and what would happen if these apex predators were eliminated from the ecosystem, leading all the way to an ocean that is a “thick sludge” and the effect that would have on land animals and humans as well. The book ends on a positive note, reminding that sharks do still exist and we can do our part to help protect them. An extensive glossary at the end covers the unfamiliar words and a further call to action follow the text in this early-to-middle elementary picture book.
How to Spy on a Shark by Lori Haskins Houran. Told as a “how to” book, this rhyming book provides instructions on how to capture, tag, and follow sharks using high technology robots. Few words on each page and the friendly illustrations and rhythm provide a nice read aloud for young students.
CHOMP: A Shark Romp by Michael Paul is a simple picture book that illustrates a dozen sharks with a sentence or phrase that mentions how it stands out from other sharks. With such a sparsity of text but a variety of illustrations, this simple book would be appropriate to read aloud to young students and then let them pour over to discover the diversity of sharks.
Shark Lady: The Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating. This biography details the life of Eugenie Clark, who was born in 1922 and faced the difficulties of earning her degree in zoology in order to fulfill her dream of working with sharks. The underlying message is the necessaity of protecting earth’s species and eliminating the stigma surrounding sharks as “dangerous” to humans.
Fictional Shark Picture Books
As I searched for fiction and easily accessible shark books for young children, I was disappointed. I wanted a story about a shark that was not straight facts. I cannot recommend most of the fictional (books that are not full of facts) about sharks, as most emphasize how scary they are. Often, the shark is portrayed as a bully. In some cases the shark is redeemed in the end. I don't think writing about a shark that bullies other fish is a good book for young children: it perpetuates stereotypes of sharks as "dangerous" and scary, instead of true concepts about these unique sea creatures. Here are some that I did enjoy.
Shark Baby by Ann Downer tells the story of a shark in it’s “mermaid’s purse” waiting to be born. It reads as a fictional story, and Shark Baby searches for what type of shark he is. He sees a variety of different sharks, but in comparing his own egg case to the others, he sees his is not the same. Eventually he finds a shark that defends himself as he does and he know he is a swell shark. The book emphasizes the differences among the many sharks, but we also see the variety of styles of egg cases and environments in the oceanic ecosystem. Extensive facts, quizzes, and other details are at the end of the book, and many more are included online at the publisher’s site as well. Lexile 560L.
Gilbert in Deep by Jane Clarke and Charles Fuge. A shark and his fish friend play hide-and-seek over the deep and are scared by the strange creatures. It shows the “scared” side of a great white shark and provides an interesting take on the various levels of ocean life. Other than that, it’s an amusing story with a shark.
More Shark Picture Books
Not all shark picture book books will work well for read-aloud time. Here are a few others that I found that may be worth finding for your children.
Big Shark, Little Shark by Anna Mebrino. This board book has very simple text. It describes the opposites of big and little and fast and slow. Big Shark and Little Shark are both hungry. In the end, they trap enough fish in the net for both of them to eat. Although it hints at the food web, there is little to reinforce it as all ends nicely in the end. That said, it is a simple beginning reader to help youngest build confidence. Reading Level F. Lexile 210.
Sharks and Dolphins: A Compare and Contrast Book by Kevin Kurtz. This books provides basic facts about sharks and dolphins with photographs of the animals and many examples of various types of each animal. The end of the book provides details on a world without sharks and dolphins as well as a demonstration of how to make a Venn diagram. Lexile 410L.
Hungry, Hungry Sharks! by Joanna Cole (Step into Reading 3). Lexile 490L.
CHOMP! A Book about Sharks by Melvin Berger. Hello Readers Level 3. Lexile 500L.
Truth or Lie! Sharks by Erica S. Perl. Step into Reading level 3. F&P LEVEL P. Lexile 530L.
A Shark Pup Grows Up by POam Zollman. Lexile 390L.
Shark Picture Books for Older Readers
Who Would Win? Hammerhead vs. Bull Shark by Jerry Pallotta. Lexile 780L.
Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins discusses the various levels of the ocean. This book may be helpful for upper elementary students to get a better understanding of the place sharks have in the ocean ecosystem.
Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey is a detailed book for upper elementary students or even middle school students. It provides extensive details about the differences about sharks, and appears like an encyclopedia. Younger children may enjoy browsing the detailed illustrations of shark teeth, the variety of sharks, or the specifics on nearly 50 unique sharks, organized by scientific name.
So there you go! Lots of picture books about sharks. I hope these shark picture books will come in handy as you prepare for your own Shark Week learning and fun!