About the Holiday
Today we take a moment to consider the benefits sharks provide to the marine ecosystem. Every year thousands of sharks die and their species threatened due to misconceptions and misuse. As a predator at the top of the food chain, sharks play a crucial role in maintaining balance within the ocean. Protecting this often-misunderstood species is an important goal.
Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time?
Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Michael Slack
Deep in the ocean two friends do everything together and life is almost perfect as they swim over ship wrecks, under reefs, and all around. Nugget and Fang are as close as two friend can be—there’s just one thing: Nugget is a minnow while Fang is a shark. Neither of them consider their friendship unusual—until Nugget goes to school. There during Reading, Nugget hears the story of The Three Little Minnows and the Big, Bad Shark. “‘Ha!’” says Nugget. “‘Impossible!’”
During Math class the students solve a word problem: “What if there were ten minnows and a shark came along and ate four of them? How many minnows are left?” Nugget is scandalized. “‘A shark would never do that!’” he says. But Science period reveals the facts of the Marine Food Chain. Nugget protests that sharks aren’t scary. “‘My best friend is a shark!’” he announces. His classmates are shocked. “Have you lost your gills?” one asks. Another snarks, “Hello—sharks eat minnows!” Nugget can’t believe it.
Back home Nugget gives Fang the bad news. “‘Sounds fishy to me,’” says Fang. Nugget assures him it’s true before swimming far away. “Fang’s heart sank.” He can’t help if he’s “toothy,” he thinks, and he knows he doesn’t mean to be scary. He wants his best friend back. To prove it Fang tries different tactics. On Tuesday he dresses like a mermaid, but Nugget and the other fish see through his disguise. “‘Oh, my algae!’” exclaims Nugget. On Wednesday Fang sends a beautiful sea plant arrangement with a note—“Dear Nugget, I’d love to have you over for dinner.”—which is misinterpreted in the worst possible way. On Thursday Fang pulls out all the stops. He gets a “Nugget” tattoo, sends a special message and gift, and performs an original song and dance, but nothing works.
On Friday Fang is sadly resigned to being alone. While he mopes and cries, he doesn’t see that a fishing net has been lowered to the ocean floor, capturing Nugget and the other minnows. “Help!” shouts Nugget as the net is slowly lifted. Fang wrings his fins, uncertain of what to do. Suddenly, he has an idea. With his big sharp teeth he chomps and chews and tears the net to pieces. Nugget and the minnows swim to safety. They all stare at Fang wide-eyed.
Fang dejectedly begins to swim away. “‘I know, I know,’” he says, “‘I’m toothy. Too scary. Too…shark.’” “Wait!” calls Nugget and uses a little math of his own. “‘There were ten minnows, and a very special shark came along. How many friends are there altogether?’” Now eleven friends live happily deep in the ocean, and everyone—especially Fang—are all smiles.
Tammi Sauer’s tribute to true friendship reveals the danger when “facts” take precedence over what you know in your heart to be true. Her reminder to listen to your inner voice is approached with humor and the honest types of doubts that can niggle and cloud judgement. Throughout the story, her language is accessible and kid-conversational, including puns that will elicit giggles. Sauer’s use of a math word problem to both highlight contrary thinking and provide a solution underscores the influence of education. Nugget & Fang is a wonderful book for kids navigating the school and activities environment while making new—and keeping old—friendships.
Michael Slack immediately sets kids in the right mindset with his bright, cartoon-inspired illustrations. Tiny, colorful Nugget and bold, blue Fang, his “toothiness” on display through his big grin, make a happy, nonchalant pair. They play together through vibrant green, yellow, and purple reefs unaware of marine stereotypes. When Nugget gets “schooled”, his astounded expressions and those of his classmates, humorously depict their predicament. The ocean environment gives Slack an opportunity for plenty of visual jokes and innovation. The Reading teacher holds a clamshell-shaped book, a piece of shipwrecked board serves as a Math blackboard, and the Science food chain poster is appropriately scary. Kids will laugh at Fang’s attempts at reconciliation, and cheer when he becomes a hero.
Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time? is sure to be a favorite story time read!
Ages 4 – 9
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013 | ISBN 978-0544481718
Will everything go swimmingly for Nugget and Fang? Watch the trailer and see!
To learn more about Tammi Sauer and her books, visit her website!
View a gallery of work by Michael Slack on his website!
Visit the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Nugget & Fang page for more goodies!
Shark Awareness Day Activity
Looking Sharp, Sharks! Coloring Page
Sharks are some of the most fascinating creatures in the sea. Have fun decorating this printable Looking Sharp, Sharks! coloring page—get creative with textures, colors, and materials!