October 15 2021

Julia and the Shark, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave


Julia and the Shark, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Title: Julia and the Shark
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Family/ relationships. Mental health. 

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“I am ten years and two hundred and three days old. I had to ask my dad to work that out for me, because numbers are not my favourite. Words are. You can make numbers into words, but you can’t make words into numbers, and so words must be more powerful, mustn’t they?”
Sigh. Have I already said I had a favourite middle grade book for the year? Whatever it was, I think it has some serious competition. Julia and the Shark is written by @kiran_mh and illustrated by @tomdefrestonart, and it’s a stunning book. Julia tells us the story of the summer she spent at a lighthouse with her father, who was trying to fix the lights, and her marine biologist mother, who was trying to find a shark. Not just any shark, though. One older than the trees, moving though the water slowly for centuries, and possibly holding a secret that might help people, if only they could unlock the mysteries it holds. Julia loses her mother, though, and she finds the shark. Don’t worry. That’s not spoilery.
There is something deeply poetic about this novel, pure and passionate, and at once both deeply profound and deeply simple. If I had read this as a child, I’d have resonated deeply with Julia. As an adult, I feel strongly connected to both her father, struggling to hold everything together for the people he loves, and her mother, who (spoiler alert!) is dealing with some mental health issues.
Content warnings: this book depicts a parent with bipolar, and the impact of their extremes on the people around them, including an overdose of pills which is presented with a profoundly sensitive touch. The emphasis is very much on the power of acknowledging mental health issues and seeking appropriate help.
I know, it sounds heavy. It’s really not. It’s such a beautiful narrative, supported and enhanced by the incredible art of de Freston. I am in awe of this book. I’ll be reading it again.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 173/2021

Happy reading,




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Posted October 15, 2021 by Tamara Reads in category Book chat, Children's Books, Picture books

About the Author

She/her. On Whadjuk Noongar land. NSWPRC Officer, Teacher Librarian, English teacher and social media advocate. I've been teaching in Western Sydney for my entire teaching career, and love my job more than I love Neil Gaiman. (That's a lot, in case you're wondering!) I stalk authors (but always politely), fangirl over books, and drink coffee. And one of my guilty prides about my children is that they all have favourite authors. All opinions are my own.

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