Swim, Shark, Swim is the second book in the Wild Wanderers series written by Dom Conlon and illustrated by Anastasia Izlesou. We follow a blacktip reef shark on a fictional journey exploring ocean forests and coastal reefs in search of a home, meeting a number of different species of shark and other marine animals. Swim, Shark, Swim is a poem that celebrates the endangered shark and the diversity of our oceans.
The text is spellbindingly beautiful which makes this a perfect read-aloud. A first reading is essential just to hear the music created by the words. The refrain; ‘he opens a tunnel of bubbles and light and swim, Shark, SWIM!’ will encourage readers to join in and the changing refrain alters the pace of the narrative until the shark is urged to ‘HUNT!’ Subsequent readings will draw out a wealth of fascinating information about sharks, their habits and habitats. Not only that but glorious examples of how language can create magic, for example:
‘This reef-watcher, jewel-guarder
will tell you he’s lost –
lost in a place where the land pours
sand from an outstretched hand.’
There are so many wonderful examples of rich language peppered throughout the book. The type of language we want to surround our young readers with so that they are intoxicated by the words and want to read for themselves. This is a book that will inspire children to learn more about sharks, to seek them out in aquariums, and most importantly to understand why it is so vital that they are not allowed to become extinct. Dom Conlon talked about how researching this book changed his view of sharks and their importance as a species and how crucial it is that they are predators. Perceptions of sharks have altered since the 1970s and 1980’s when the Jaws films left a legacy of fear. Now the message is that we must respect the place of these magnificent creatures. I particularly liked the Shark Facts at the end of the book which provides further information for curious readers.
Accompanying the rich text are sumptuous illustrations by the highly talented Anastasia Izlesou. Her use of colour is sublime. She conveys not only the range of locations journeyed through by Shark but also the mood of the book. Anastasia spent a day at an aquarium as part of her research and looking at the illustrations gave me the same sense of immersion. That I am inside the picture, more than an onlooker, a participant, swimming alongside Shark. What is extraordinary is the way Anastasia conveys the energy and vitality of sharks and the dynamic shape they have. The sense of movement created in the illustrations with the combination of colour, line, and shape is mesmerising.
Swim, Shark, Swim is a book I would recommend for all ages in a primary school. It is the best kind of literature having a glorious combination of words and pictures which cast a spell over the reader. Wild Wanderers is a series that celebrates our connection to the natural world and I am delighted that many more books are being published so do look out for them.
Dom Conlon talked to Nikki Gamble about the first book in this series, Leap, Hare, Leap! #InTheReadingCorner
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