Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ode to Testosterone

Sometimes you pick up a story because the cover calls to you. Other times it is the title. Often these stories don't live up to the expectations. Occasionally they surpass them. With a goofy name like "Shark Vs. Train" I had no idea what to expect, but it looked fun on the shelf. I can honestly say this was one of those occasions that surpassed any expectations.

“Shark Vs. Train”
By Chris Barton
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
For ages 3 - 7
Imagine two adolescent boys playing with toys in another room while you overhear the conversation. Now imagine the scene from the toy's perspectives. "Shark Vs. Train" will make you grin, smile and maybe even laugh out loud as it romps through boyhood machismo. Rated 5 (best for boys, humor, nothing objectionable)

Two boys race into the playroom and each grab their favorite toy – a shark and a train. It is not the beginning of a joke, rather the beginning of an uncanny account of adolescent imagination. My shark could beat your train! My train could beat your shark! I’m sure as a parent you can visualize this scenario with very little prompting. A parent’s perspective makes this story fun for the adult reader, but the toys’ perspectives make it a blast for everyone.

After the boys grab their toys we see everything through the eyes of the shark and the train. The battle to see who is the best powers through a variety of competitions: pie-eating, carnival rides, sword fight, hot air ballooning, burping and so on. That's right, you can't have an adolescent book of contests without at least one bodily function contest. At least this time it was burping. Each contest leads to another and another, and the action get crazier and more imaginative along the way.

The illustrations add to the fun with wonderful character development and visual jokes. Shark and Train are captured with the raw energy necessary to pull off this imaginative romp through adolescent machismo. The illustrations are paired perfectly with the the story to create an endearing ode to boys.

Know any boys that are having birthdays soon. Legos might be on the wish list, but "Shark Vs. Train" is a book they will read over and over again.

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