I Survived: The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis
This is one in a series of books that focus on slightly horrifying historical events. It’s like historical fiction, tabloid style. But at least it gets some kids to read historical fiction who otherwise would run the other way? This particular story is based on shark attacks that took place in New Jersey in 1916. Don’t believe me? Ask the Smithsonian.
Chet is living with his uncle in New Jersey and desperately trying to make friends with the local boys. In the summer heat, they spend plenty of time swimming in the local creek. When the papers are full of news about shark attacks down the shore, most people in town believe the stories are made up purely to sell papers. Even if they weren’t, no one would expect a shark in the creek! So Chet and his friends engage in a series of pranks, pretending at first to be chased by a shark, then the Jersey devil. It’s no wonder that when a shark appears for real, no one takes it seriously!
The I Survived series is not exactly my cup of tea, but I can definitely see the appeal. The reading level is appropriate for beginning of third grade. The font is on the larger side and there are still a few pictures interspersed. These also might do well with fourth or fifth grade boys who aren’t quite reading on grade level, as the content is plenty mature. I would say keep these away from kids prone to nightmares, but if your reader is going to be thrill-seeking anyway, why not learn something in the process!
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A girl is sweet on a boy. The boys swim in their “drawers”.
Profanity – “heck,”
Death, Violence and Gore – A shark bites off a man’s leg. The man dies. There is blood everywhere. A man tells how a shark’s skin scraped his leg until it was bloody. A man stabs a shark in the eye with a harpoon. Another man bleeds to death from shark bites before he even makes it to shore. Before he died, he managed to relate that it snipped his leg off and shook him like a terrier shakes a rat. A boy is scraped by a shark fin. A boy is bitten by a shark. A man shoots a gun at the shark. Two additional people are killed by a shark. Evidently when the shark was cut open, they found human bones inside.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – Shall we start with the Jaws-like image on the front cover? The whole book is meant to be a little scary. There are also tales told of a creek devil (perhaps meant to be the Jersey devil?) The boys work at a factory.