The car had barely come to a complete stop when Orly flung open the door and hopped out. She pulled off her shirt and threw it into the bushes. Underneath she was wearing her rainbow-striped bathing suit.
“Orly!” her mom said. “What are you doing?”
“I slept in my bathing suit and haven’t taken it off.”
“But you’ve been wearing it over a whole day,” her mother said.
Orly pulled off her pants and kicked them into another bush. “A shark researcher always wears her bathing suit,” she said. “You never know when you’re going to have to jump into the water.”
Orly is a young girl who is shark-obsessed and has researched them to the point of becoming an expert through books, websites, apps, Netflix shows…you name it! She knows what they eat, where they live, how to attract them, and she even has a shark-tracking app on her tablet! Her mission is to protect sharks on the open water. There is one great white shark, in particular, named Delta who Orly tracks through an Ocean Science website and app. Instead of Orly’s typical summer break at Grandma and Nana’s cottage near the ocean, she learns that, this year, she is being sent to camp. Initially disappointed, Orly’s attitude shifts when she learns that she is going to Silver’s Sailing Camp. The camp’s location means she’ll be out on the water and closer to great white sharks!
The children and instructor at Camp Silver Sails learn a whole lot more than the basics of learning to sail, all thanks to Orly and Dean. Dean is a fellow camp member who shares Orly’s intense passion, but his is for all ocean plants and animals. Together, Orly and Dean’s innocently feeding off each other’s passions at camp leads the whole group astray. But the duo doesn’t care about that because their priorities are different than the others (especially those of their instructor, Dave). They argue that the matter of the life or death situation ocean animals are facing is more important than learning to tie knots for a sailboat. The knots they should be learning about are the ones that are in fishermen’s nets, unintentionally trapping and killing whales and other ocean animals.
Shark Bait! will inspire young children to explore their passions and know they can make a difference and educate others, at any age. Orly and Dean mention learning through websites, apps, Netflix shows, and school. Children will soon discover that science researchers don’t all need to have high school diplomas or university degrees (although those are possibilities for those who wish to pursue them). A wide variety of information sources can be found at our fingertips; it’s just a matter of having the determination to seek them. When they do, children can even educate adults. This story was inspired by a real shark, one named Hilton, who was being tracked in the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia, Canada, by an organization called OCEARCH.
This illustrated early chapter book for emerging readers is the perfect choice for any child with a strong passion. In particular, those who care about protecting wildlife will be inspired by Orly’s courage to advocate and take action for sharks. Other themes that can be taken away include science, technology, environmental awareness, and water safety. Authors Jeff Szpirglas and Danielle Saint-Onge add humour and unexpected twists in the story to keep the audience wanting to read more.
There are 15 black-and-white illustrations included by Dave Whamond. These range in size from full-page to miniature shark fins above each chapter number. Although the following details may be overlooked by a young audience, the characters featured are culturally diverse, and the fact that Orly’s grandparents are referred to as Grandma and Nana suggests that they are a same-sex couple. Neither is directly pointed out, but their inclusion exposes children to these various types of diversity.
Szpirglas and Saint-Onge are a married couple residing in Kitchener, Ontario. They are both classroom teachers with experience teaching children of diverse cultural backgrounds. This is the fifth “Orca Echoes” book authored by Szpirglas, one of which was nominated for the Red Maple Award. He also has experience as editor at Chirp, Chickadee, and Owl magazines. Saint-Onge has a master’s degree in social anthropology and is an upholder of equity in classrooms.
Andrea Boyd is an early years’ teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is pursuing her master’s degree specializing in language and literacy at the University of Manitoba.