Title: The Shark Attacks of 19160-545-20695-2
Author: Lauren Tarshis
Illustrator: Scott Dawson
Pages: 94
Recommended Ages: 8-13
Star Rating: ★★★

Sharks. Ferocious. Scary. Bloodthirsty. And man-eating to boot…

The Story.

Chet Roscow is finally settling in to his new lifestyle – being settled. Always before he’s been on the go with his parents, traveling from city to city, trying to find work. But now, his Uncle Jerry has hired him to work at his diner and stay the summer with him. Things have been so peaceful.

Then comes the day that Chet’s friends, Sid, Dewey, and Monty, burst into the diner waving a newspaper. Across the front of the paper are printed the words ‘KILLER SHARK ATTACKS SWIMMER’. The main article says that a shark has attacked a swimmer just seventy miles away on the Jersey Coast. Uncle Jerry says the article is a hoax, but Chet isn’t so sure. His uncertainty turns to horror as he sees a gray fin slowly threading its way toward him as he swims in his favorite creek…

Will Chet, Sid, Dewey, and Monty escape? Or will they too become victims of the shark attacks of 1916?

Discussion.

As mentioned in the synopsis, Chet has never known a stable, home-based, family situation. Every time he has started to settle into a location, he is jerked out of it again. Because of this, he is unsure how to proceed with developing friendships with Sid, Dewey, and Monty. What does a fun relationship look like? What do the boys want out of him? How should he react to their pranks? And should he even try to make friends, knowing that he’s likely to be moved again before he can really bond with them?

Uncle Jerry, through his constant friendship, teaches Chet how to be a good friend to the boys, and by the time the story is over, Chet realizes that “he and the guys would always be tied together.”

Of course, their friendship isn’t entirely without setbacks. These come in the form of pranks played by the boys upon Chet and vice versa. The boys decide that it would be fun to see Chet scared out of his wits. So, they use a piece of grey tile to mimic a shark fin and pretend that the shark has eaten one of them. After Chet recovers from his disappointment, he decides to play a prank back on them, and resurrects a local legend – the Creek Devil, who supposedly is a mud-covered, snake-bat-and-child eating monster. Chet dresses himself up as this monster and scares the boys in his turn. This sets him up to be disbelieved later, when he sees the shark and tries to give the alarm.

The story is based upon a horrific scenario. The attacks are discussed (blood, etc.), but in muted terms. Still, Shark Attacks may scare children, especially those prone to fear.

While the boys are out swimming, Dewey tells Chet that Minnie Marston, “the prettiest girl in school”, is sweet on him. Later, Minnie waves to Chet “like she wanted him to go up to her and talk to her”, but Chet is too busy planning his prank. Once Chet is in the hospital, Dewey tells Chet that Minnie keeps asking about him. Nothing serious.

Uncle Jerry says that he thinks a pretty nurse likes him.

‘Heck’ is used twice, ‘God’ and ‘darn’ each once.

Conclusion. An interesting fictionalized account of the Shark Attacks of 1916.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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