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And now for something completely different…

I don’t normally take the time to review the books I read with the kids. Mostly because we read so many and a lot of what we read is older material that’s been reviewed many times before. I don’t really have anything new to add to what’s already been said.

But today I wanted to write a very quick review of a brand new book which we were lucky enough to get a hold of on Friday and which has already inserted itself firmly into the bedtime canon.

It’s called There’s A Shark in The Bath and it’s written and illustrated by the very lovely Sarah McIntyre.  It’s the first book that she’s done where she’s both authored and illustrated – as far as I know. And I hope she’ll be doing more such as it’s really fabulous.

The story is simple enough – Dulcie spots a fin in the bath tub and fishes out a family of three hungry sharks determined to eat her up. She then outwits them in hilarious fashion. There’s a nice simple structure and great use of repetition so that even the smallest readers can quickly learn to ‘read’ the story along with you while still having enough interesting vocab in there to stretch slightly older readers. Dulcie is a great protagonist. The ending has a nice funny twist that made the kids giggle.

The illustrations are, as always with Sarah’s work, zingy, bright and crazy. There are so many jokes in the pictures, if you know where to look. One of the things we always love about her work is that there is always so much going on in the background – whether it’s aliens eating cake or in this case, sea creatures doing increasingly ridiculous things with bathroom objects.

All three of the kids have engaged with this book. I caught Orlaith reading it to herself on Friday afternoon, chuckling. Elias is totally mesmerised by all the fish in the flyleaf and he loves pretending to be Baby Shark. He’s at the stage where he has to be one of the characters in every book we read and Baby Shark’s where it’s at for him.

The kid who’s loved it best so far is Esme. She read it to me all by herself at bedtime last night and she was so pleased with herself. She loves the illustrations and she laughs at all the jokes – especially when Dulcie says ‘hup hup’. For some reason that particularly tickled her fancy.

There was a moment before she started reading when Esme turned to me with huge eyes and big smile and said “Dulcie? That’s a girl’s name, isn’t it? Is the main character a girl? I can be her!”

It was a bit of a bittersweet moment.

On the one hand, I love that here’s a book with a really cool female protagonist that my kid can identify with. Dulcie’s awesome. She’s funny, brave and clever and she solves her own problems with humour and without resorting to violence.

On the other, I feel sad that both she and I feel so grateful to see a book with a female protagonist she can identify with.

Orlaith’s never really cared much about the lack of stand alone female protagonists in her books. She’ll readily identify with male, female, monster or dinosaur, if the writer makes a convincing job of creating their voice and their world. The character is just a convenient tool for getting more story.

But Esme really notices. She gets upset by the lack of girls in books. Whether it’s a picture book or Lord of the Rings, she wants to know where all the girls are and I often have to gender bend characters to make things more balanced.

(Which I do anyway because of the aforementioned dearth of female protagonists. It’s incredibly important for all children to have a range of girls and women represented in their fictional worlds and not just princesses or damsels in distress. We are not borg. Likewise I want to see representation of a wider range of masculinities. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

So (although it’s sad to feel the need to say thank you for something that shouldn’t be a big deal) a big thank you to Sarah for a cool female character that my kid can feel connected to. She wants to read more stories about Dulcie – she’s convinced she’ll have more adventures!

Overall a huge and enthusiastic thumbs up for There’s A Shark in The Bath.

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