Verdict: 4 Stars
I first came across the creatives behind Sharky Marky and the Big Race at this year’s BookExpo America event. It’s a great thing when someone walks up, engages you in conversation, and then offers you a copy of a book. That’s exactly how publishing industry events are supposed to work. It happened a number of other times during the event, such as when Pam Jaffe from Avon handed me a new title to review, or Rick Riordan handed me a copy of one of his Percy Jackson titles that he so kindly offered to autograph. But no one else handed me anything quite like Sharky Marky.
The illustrations are engaging enough that a variety of age groups can enjoy the pictures; the same is true of gender, as this book is neither too far leaned towards boys or girls. It has a theme children of many ages and backgrounds can identify with, namely, facing down a difficult situation while others around you seem to be better, faster, or smarter. By sticking to what he knows, Sharky Marky (spoiler alert) ends up winning the race.
The only drawback were a few places where the rhyme scheme felt a little forced, such as the use of the word “dire” to complete the rhyme. That’s getting a little bit beyond the vocabulary level of the intended audience. In a few other places, like the countdown, the grammar intentionally slipped in order to fit the meter, and as an English teacher and a mom I didn’t care for that.
Overall, the book was fun, professionally made, and very high quality. It can easily keep younger readers’ interest, and other than some vocabulary or grammar concerns, it can easily become one of their first and favorite self-selected texts that can be completed on their own.