Cover of Shark Lady shows a woman in scuba gear underwater with a sharkIt’s sometimes tough for kids–and adults!–to look at successful adults and figure out what their success has to do with the day-to-day life they had as children. In Shark Lady Jess Keating does a wonderful job of showing how childhood interests and passions led to Eugenie Clark’s important discoveries as a marine biologist.

Clark is today known for her discoveries about sharks, but she didn’t even see her first wild shark until after college. And yet a full half of the book is devoted to Clark’s life before she graduated from college. How does Keating make it work? She helps us see the rich imaginative life Clark had as a child: “What would it be like to swim with her sharks? To breather underwater with gills of her own?” She shows us things Clark did not specifically related to sharks that eventually helped her as a scientist. We see her reading in the library. We see her tending a home aquarium with guppies, goldfish, and snails. We see her swimming and diving for fun. By the end of the book I was convinced of Clark’s passionate exuberance for her subject matter, and I loved thinking about how everyday childhood interests propelled her down her path.

The art in the book is rounded and delights in whimsy–fish and sharks swimming down the aisles of the natural history museum along with the patrons, lurking behind bookshelves in the library. The endpapers are covered with wonderful drawings of sharks and sea creatures.

The back matter includes digestible and highly entertaining “Shark Bites”–fascinating quick facts about sharks, a nicely composed timeline of Eugenie Clark’s life, and an author’s note focusing on Clark’s legacy and the research Keating did for the book.

This is, of course, a great book to pair with Swimming with Sharks, Heather Lang’s picture book biography of Eugenie Clark, but it stands exuberantly, delightfully on its own, the story of one child’s passion fueling an entire career.

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the World’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. Sourcebooks: 2017.

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I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.