Written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz, Coloring by Joel Stewart
Candlewick Press, 2006
Out in the sea, Shark told his friend Lobster one day: “Lobster, I’m scared!”
Did You Know? If lobsters have trouble finding food, they will eat other lobsters. Sharks can go through 30,000 teeth in a lifetime.
Shark describes a tiger to Lobster and the two of them start building a fortress to protect themselves. A cuttlefish joins them, bringing her family, a lot of crabs, a piano and lots of rocks, which they use to build a wall. They coax Shark into singing a song and he sings about tigers, which makes everyone realize they are still pretty undefended. They decide to get a sea monster for the outside of their fortress and off they go to find one. They find a huge monster asleep, bring it back and wrap it around their fortress. When it wakes up, it roars at them and chases them around. The shark realizes he and Lobster are pretty formidable, too, so they really don’t have to be afraid of anything.
Author/illustrator Viviane Schwarz brings a lot of comic quirkiness to this unusual story. Shark and Lobster are excellent characters who show behaviors you don’t expect to see from them, making them believable and likeable right away. The fact that these characters are afraid of tigers (while also being in the middle of the ocean, which is generally tiger-free) is laughably irrational but is never derisive toward the characters who experience them, which is cool. The extremes they go to in order to avoid something that’s not even threatening them at all help show the ways that your brain can do weird things under stress.
The story is told in a graphic novel style and you have to turn the book sideways, with the spine on the top, to read it. Although Ms. Schwarz drew the pictures and hand-lettered the book’s speech bubbles, the coloring was done digitally by Joel Stewart, using lots of greens and blues to showcase their ocean environment. The sea monster here is really bizarre looking, with a sort of forked tail in the middle of its head. I liked the ending, when Shark and Lobster realize they are capable of taking care of themselves and don’t really need to rely on sea monsters for protection. This one’s a lot of fun.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that you should avoid putting yourself in real danger just to escape from imaginary danger.