land sharkLand Shark
Written by Beth Ferry
Illustrated by Ben Mantle
Published by Chronicle Books, 2015

Read our interview with Beth Ferry HERE.

In Land Shark‘s hero, Bobby, Beth Ferry has created a character for the ages; devious and conniving, without ever crossing the line into the absurd. He’s something akin to Family Guy‘s Stewie, but grounded in reality.

Shark-obsessed, Bobby plots a two-part plan to convince his parents to get him a shark for his birthday; he puts his plan into motion, but, much to his dismay, it quickly backfires, and all he’s left with is a stupid dog. “Shark lovers cannot be converted into dog lovers,” we are told. Or can they? Bobby initially wanted a shark because they’re “Fright-ful, bite-ful and delightful,” but could a puppy not be all of those things as well?

Ferry’s story is simple, without being skeletal, allowing for a full narrative without ever stepping on the toes of the illustrator…

And the illustrations by Ben Mantle are mind-blowing. He fills every spread with so much detail, imbuing the characters with an incredible depth, the kind of which is rarely attempted –let alone achieved– in children’s picture books. The color palette is gorgeous and the character designs are fantastic.

(Speaking of which, is it just me, or does Bobby bare a striking resemblance to Orange is the New Black‘s Lea Delaria?)

Bobby, of course, is full of emotion, but the supporting players are equally layered and complex, and Mantle has a cinematographer’s eye for angles and perspective, which he employs to create visual interest throughout.

Land Shark is a triumph. Both Ferry and Mantle are firing on all cylinders here, and each has delivered career-making work.

-J.H. requested and received a copy of Land Shark in exchange for an honest review. Read about our review policy HERE.

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