Shark Island – Donna McGough

Shark Island is an entertaining adventure story for readers from 9 to 12 years. With a shipwreck, shark infested waters, an island that may or may not be inhabited and the possibility of hidden treasure, there is plenty of action and potential danger in store for our characters.

We start this story on board a deep-sea fishing expedition off the Florida Keys coast. On board are best friends Charlie and Jake, Jake’s cousin Natalie, an old sea captain with an artificial leg that is rumoured to have resulted from a shark attack, and the ship’s Australian first mate, Nathan. Natalie’s personality reminds me a bit of Hermoine Granger.

I’m not sure whose responsibility it was to check the weather radar before they set off for the expedition that day but before too long they’re in the middle of a huge storm which results in a shipwreck. The three children and Nathan wind up together at Shark Island, where many before have tried and failed to find the rumoured ancient treasure that’s buried in shark guarded caves.

While there isn’t a focus on character development in Shark Island the reader is given sufficient detail to be able to picture each character. There’s enough information given so when decisions are made throughout the book they line up well with what the reader knows about that character’s personality or motivation. I would have liked for some off page action to have been described more but at only 96 pages there’s only so much detail you can go into.

I love the cover illustration of this book. You’re face to face with a shark who’s swimming towards you. In the background there’s a shark fin above the water scarily close to the fishing boat, which looks to be struggling against the power of the ocean in wild weather. Way in the background is just the hint of land.

Before you’ve opened this book you know it’s going to involve a perilous journey and for me the anticipation began as soon as I saw that image. I love shark stories. Rick Sanders has done a wonderful job capturing the tension with this illustration. I really liked the illustration of a shark’s tooth at the beginning of each chapter as well.

The text on Robin Krauss’ cover design stands out without overshadowing or covering up any of the main elements in the illustration. While the font for the author’s name is fairly bland and forgettable, the title font is appropriately rugged and weathered.

I thought the inclusion of the “Your Turn” questions at the end of most chapters was a clever way to pull the reader into the story and to make them think about what they’ve read. Besides ensuring the reader has comprehended the preceding chapter the questions also encourage creative thinking, asking the reader to consider what they would have done in a situation or what they think will happen next.

When I was in primary school some teachers would read portions of books to my class on specific days and tasks were then set based on what was happening in the story at the time. I can definitely see this book being used in classrooms. The questions at the end of chapters would be a perfect starting point for classroom discussions and the final chapter question is just begging to be used as a creative writing exercise.

I wasn’t a fan of the people indigenous to Shark Island being referred to as “savage natives”. Theirs is one scene I would have preferred to happen on page, if only to point out to the reader how wrong that preconception was, as the description made them appear helpful but somewhat cranky.

I would have liked to have known more of Nathan’s backstory and I would have liked some more shark scenes, but I say this as someone just slightly older than the target audience. I expect I would have been closer to 9 than 12 when I would have enjoyed this type of book the most.

For those it’s intended for there’s good dialogue between the characters, enough suspense and potential danger to be exciting but not too scary, and plenty of action to keep the plot moving along.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and thewordverve inc. for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A boating adventure turns wild! 

Three friends, pre-teens, embark on a deep-sea fishing excursion. Their weathered and wise captain has just one leg – thanks to a shark attack from long ago. Nate, the first mate, dreams of treasures not yet discovered. The kids just want to do some fishing. 

When an unexpected storm comes along, the boat loses course, and with the high waves and furious waters, the passengers and crew are tossed into the ocean to fight for their lives. 

New reality sets in. They are on a deserted island, surrounded by sharks. Hence, its name: SHARK ISLAND. 

Legend says there is a treasure there. And Nate will do anything to find it – including putting the youngsters in harm’s way. 

Will the kids survive the harrowing experience? Will they return home to their families? Will the captain be able to lead his mates to safety? 

And what about those natives?

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