Review: Julia and the Shark - Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Genre: Middle grade Published: Orion Childrens Books, September 2021
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
"My name is Julia. This is the story of the summer I lost my mum, and found a shark older than trees. Don't worry though, that doesn't spoil the ending."
Julia and the Shark is a stunning middle-grade novel about family, friendship, compassion, and coming of age, and the ripples of a chronic mental health condition throughout all of it.
Ten-year-old Julia has followed her parents to a remote lighthouse for the summer; her dad for work, and her marine-biologist mother on a determined mission to find the elusive Greenland shark. when her mother's obsession threatens to submerge them all, Julia finds herself on an adventure with dark depths and a lighthouse full of hope...
Although my expectations where high, I'm happy to say that this story met them head on! It's one of those stories that transcends its age-demographic and moves straight into instant-classic territory. It's emotional journey for all ages, and honestly the kind of book I hope to see parents read, by themselves, or preferable together with their child. The story is a wonderful starting-point for meaningful conversations, yet stands powerful enough on its own not to require explanation for its emotional resonance.
Although the themes are very different, this reminded me a little about one of my all-time favourite books A Monster Calls, with its honest and heartwrenching exploration of a difficult theme through the eyes of a child, coupled with hauntingly beautiful illustrations. That comparison alone is some of the highest praise I can give a book, if you know my feelings on the former. Extra credit goes to Tom de Freston, who's credited as the secondary author, but whose illustrations add an integral level of depth to the story.
Highly recommend, whether you're a child, adult, parent, or anything in between.
Find this book on Goodreads.