Shark Girl by Kelly L. Bingham. (Grades 7+)
Shark Girl may be the easiest book to booktalk ever. I mean, who doesn't want to read a book about a girl who loses an arm in a shark attack?
Here's what I wrote about it when I read it in December '07:
"This novel in verse tells the story of Jane, an artistic high schooler whose life changes completely when she loses her right arm in a shark attack. A bystander videotapes the event and it's shown on the news. Suddenly strangers from all over the country are sending her cards and flowers, acting like they're her new best friend, like they understand her. In reality, Jane shrinks from all the attention and seems to abandon the things that gave her joy before the accident. Little things like cracking open eggs or buttoning her pants are suddenly insurmountable. But as Jane gives herself time to heal, she realizes that although she wouldn't have wished for this accident, it's taking her down a new and interesting path. Perhaps not worse... just different.
I have no firsthand experience, but I imagine that the voice of Jane is pretty realistic and it's an interesting glimpse into the world of someone with a disability. It made me think about things like how long it would take me to relearn how to write using my left hand (or type, for that matter). Again, I'm not a huge fan of the novel-in-verse format, but I think it mostly works and there are instances where it really works in this novel."
I find it interesting that there are two novels in verse on the list this year (Shark Girl and Home of the Brave). I'm still not sure how I feel about novels in verse, but they're growing on me I suppose.
Consider pairing this one with Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack and managed to return to surfing. Is it in bad taste to also recommend Shark Life by Jaws author Peter Benchley? Oh, well. :)
Read more (better) reviews at MotherReader, Bildungsroman, Oops...Wrong Cookie, Shelf Elf, and Becky's Book Reviews. Shark Girl was a readergirlz pick in April 2008. Read a roundtable discussion about the book at Miss Erin's. Check out the readergirlz forum chat with Kelly L. Bingham and interviews at MotherReader, Bildungsroman, and Cynsations (did you know that Kelly used to be a story artist for Disney?).