Book Review – Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston

books, reviews

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages. I was so excited to get it because it sounded like such a fantastic story and it looked beautiful. I was hoping to read it last year but I didn’t get a chance. That’s what happens when you set yourself a stupid reading challenge that restricts your choices. I’ve been making slow progress with my current read, so I decided to spend some time yesterday getting through this one. I hoped it would be a change from the heartbreaking Dear Edward. Well, it didn’t quite turn out like that.

“You can make numbers into words, but you can’t make words into numbers, and so words must be more powerful, mustn’t they?”

This is the exact line that really made me fall in love with this book. I mean, I was most of the way there because of the gorgeous illustrations and interesting formatting. However, these words proved that I was on solid ground with Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s writing. This was the first time I’d read anything she’d written so I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew before picking this up was that it sounded incredible. It’s safe to say that my expectations were high for this one.

Thankfully the book ended up being even better than I’d imagined. This is a story that’s reminiscent of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls but slightly less heartbreaking. It tells the story of 10-year-old Julia who moves to the Shetland Islands with her parents. Living in a remote lighthouse for the Summer, she has to entertain herself whilst her mother and father work. Her father is an engineer working on the lighthouse and her mother is a marine biologist tracking a shark. Over the weeks, Julia comes to learn a lot about friendship, family and the secrets hiding behind people’s public faces.

This is an incredibly sophisticated story that doesn’t pull any punches. It presents some big topics in a very relatable way. The story touches on friendship, loneliness, bullying and mental health. It tells an emotional but powerful story that everyone could benefit from reading. This is the kind of book that will start conversations and allow families to have important conversations. Most importantly, the book manages to tell it in an uplifting way. This is a book full of hope as well as sadness, which will make it easier on younger readers. In the middle of everything, Julia Despite the heavier themes, this is still a very engaging book.

That’s all down to the writing and the illustrations. There is something poetic about the prose here and the descriptions are luscious and lyrical. Julia and the Shark treads the line between dream and reality perfectly. The way that nature is intertwined with the human stories is also incredibly timely and well done. This is a book that doesn’t preach to anyone but aims to teach. Julia and the Shark was an absolute delight to read and I can see plenty of readers loving it. It’s a unique and interesting book that won’t be forgotten quickly.

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