About the Holiday
National Women’s History Month is all about celebrating women who broke barriers with their intelligence, creativity, courage, persistence, and unwavering confidence in their abilities. In every discipline, women have brought and continue to bring new perspectives, experiences, and talents to make contributions toward a better world. Celebrate this month-long holiday by reading about some women pioneers in all areas. Today’s book is a great place to start!
By Jakki Licare
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist
Written by Jess Keating | Illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Eugenie’s favorite place was the aquarium. She loved the smell, the colors of the fish, but most of all she loved the sharks. Eugenie wondered what it would be like to live underwater and swim with the sharks. She had to find out. In the summer, Eugenie’s mother took her to Atlantic City. “Stuffing sticky gum into her ears to keep the water out, Eugenie dove, … down, …down, …down.” She pretended to be a shark swimming strong through water.
Most people were scared of sharks, but Eugenie thought they were magnificent. She was determined to learn more about them. “So she dove…this time into books.” At the library she learned about every shark she could find. She also became Queens County Aquarium Society’s youngest member. While Eugenie’s mother couldn’t give her a pet shark, she did surprise Eugenie with a fifteen gallon fish tank. Eugenie bought guppies, clown fish and snails.
As Eugenie grew older she decided to become a zoologist, but many professors didn’t encourage her. Most thought women couldn’t and shouldn’t be scientists. “Eugenie knew better. Her dream was as big as a whale shark. So again, Eugenie dove.” She studied hard and rose to the top of her field.
Eugenie was ready to finally dive into the ocean. In the red sea, she discovered three new species. In the Palau Islands, Eugenie finally saw her first wild shark. It was beautiful. At the time many believed sharks had to always be moving to stay alive, but Eugenie discovered caves with sharks resting together. “Eugenie had proven she was smart enough to be a scientist and brave enough to explore the oceans.”
Still most of the world believed sharks to be dangerous and hunting sharks was very common. Eugenie wanted to prove to the world that sharks weren’t ‘mindless killers.’ Eugenie created an experiment where she would train a shark to push a target. It was a success! Sharks even remembered their training two months later. Eugenie proved that sharks were smart and deserved to be protected.
Facts about sharks, a detailed timeline of Eugenie Clark’s life, and an Author’s Note follow the text.
Jess Keating’s straightforward manner of writing really homes in on the struggles and successes of Eugenie Clark. Keating adds in splashes of nautical language, making this a fun and engaging read. Eugenie’s fight for gender equality was a strong theme that ties in nicely with the world’s misunderstanding of the sharks that Eugenie loved. In Eugenie’s college years, Keating writes how people tried to convince Clark to be a secretary or housewife and poignantly points out that even after she earned her degree many still doubted her ability. Young readers can see how Eugenie didn’t let that stop her from doing what she was meant to do.
Keating emphasizes not only Clark’s passion, but her hard work and courage in a variety of situations as well. The picture book begins with Clark’s passion for sharks and then transitions to the brave girl trying to deep dive with bubble gum in her ears. Later, Keating shows the reader how hard Eugenie worked to earn her degree and how brave she was to deep dive alone. The conclusion of the book circles back to her passion to protect her beloved sharks’ through scientific experiments. Kids with any passion can see how hard work and perseverance can create a huge impact on the world.
Marta Álvarez Miguéns’ illustrations are beautiful and whimsical. Bright blues and greens invite you to dive right in. Sharks swim through the library aisles while Eugenie reads and tag along with her through her aquarium trip. The illustrations do a great job of reinforcing Clark’s determination and courage. In the college classrooms Miguéns depicts Eugenie as the only girl in the lecture hall. She depicts her with squinty eyed determination; taking notes while the rest of her classmates look bored. Eugenie is also illustrated bravely diving alone with sharks.
The sharks’ large eyes make the sharks feel friendly and encourages the readers to give them a chance as well. In the conclusion of the book, Miguéns shows Eugenie standing next to a little girl who looks happily at the sharks. This illustration emphasizes the fact that Clark’s scientific achievements have given younger generations the chance to enjoy sharks as well. The end pages are covered with realistic depictions of different types of sharks and nautical sea creatures, allowing those less familiar with these animals to analyze and compare.
Shark Lady is not just for shark enthusiast. This wonderful book shows us that any dream is possible with hard work and perseverance. It would make an inspiring addition to home, school, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8 and up
Sourcebooks Explore, 2017 | ISBN 978-1492642046 (Hardcover) | Scholastic, 2018 ISBN 978-1338271478 (Paperback)
Discover more about Jess Keating and her books and illustrations on her website.
To learn more about Marta Álvarez Miguéns, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Women’s History Month Activity
Fintastic Shark Fun
Eugenie wanted to swim with the sharks and now you can too! Follow the directions below and to make your own shark fin.
- 2 pieces of 8.5 x 11 gray cardstock paper
- Tape the top of the two pieces of paper together
- Fold them back together
- Measure an inch up from the bottom of the papers (the un-taped side) and trace a straight line across both papers
- Trace a shark fin outline onto your paper. The shark outline should stop an inch above the bottom
- Cut out the fin on both pieces of paper. If you should cut through the tape, re-tape the tops together
- Fold along the lines of both papers so the folds face towards each other.
- Tape the folds so the fin becomes a triangle
- Cut two slits parallel to the folded lines
- Thread ribbon through slits
You can find Shark Lady at these booksellers
Picture Book Review