Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nonfiction That Makes the Grade: Tough, Toothy Baby Sharks by Sandra Markle

As award-winning Sandra Markle's notes for this book says, a snorkeling trip which turned into a swim with the sharks began her fascination with this best-known ocean predator. Tough, Toothy Baby Sharks is a fascinating look at the life cycle of sharks, especially the birth and "nursery" period of their young.

Illustrated with intimate photographs and information about shark eggs and shark gestation, Markle, especially in her chapter "Taking Care of Baby," points up the maternal side of sharks. For example, who knew that Draftboard Swell Shark mothers lay their eggs, which are equipped with long, threadlike tendrils, protectively close to coral or seaweed to which the eggs attach themselves immediately, or that Port Jackson shark mothers gently take their newly laid eggs in their mouths and place them into crevices to shelter them from predators? On the other hand, who knew the grim reality that some live-born shark pups feed on their smaller siblings and unfertilized eggs in their mothers' uteri? Still, the Lemon Shark dutifully bear their young in shallow mangrove lagoons which shelter them until they grow big enough to venture out into the open sea.

Endlessly fascinating, sharks are among the most popular subjects for young science readers, and Sandra Markle thoroughly covers the story of how baby sharks survive in their own challenging habitats. Backmatter includes a world map showing where the featured sharks live, an "S.O.S." (Save Our Sharks) section discussing how shark conservation is essential to ocean life, a "Sharks Are Cool" section with fascinating facts, and a glossary/index to significant terms introduced in the book.

Other notable books by Markle in this series include Slippery, Slimy Baby Frogs and Creepy, Crawly Baby Bugs. For more fascinating shark lore, see also Sandra Markle's beautifully illustrated Great White Sharks (Animal Predators) and Outside And Inside Sharks.

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