Julia and the Shark

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Author), Tom de Freston (Illustrator)


Pub Date 3/28/2023

ISBN 9781454948681

Format Hardcover, Jacketed



Julia and the Shark

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Tom de Freston
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"Deep beautiful, and true--a classic from cover to cover."
--#1 New York Times bestselling author Eoin Colfer

There are more secrets in the ocean than in the sky...
Ten-year-old Julia loves the mysteries of the ocean and marine biology, just like her scientist mother. Her family is spending the summer on a remote island where her mom is searching for the elusive Greenland shark, a creature that might be older than the trees, and so rare that it’s only been seen a few times.  
But the ocean is reluctant to give up its secrets, and Julia tries not to worry as her mother returns disappointed at the end of each day.  
Determined to prove that the shark is real, Julia sets off on a quest to find it herself, armed with a set of coordinates, a compass, and her trusty rain jacket.
She soon realizes that there are some journeys you shouldn’t go on alone. As Julia comes face to face with the dark and wondrous truths of the sea, she finds the strength to leave the shark in the depths and kick up towards the light.  
Through a unique blend of poetic prose and stunning illustrations, Julia and the Shark tells an unforgettable story full of dark depths and starry skies, courage and hope. 

This lyrical, deeply moving middle grade novel about one family’s fierce love and resilience is perfect for starting conversations about mental health and how it’s okay to not be okay.
2023 Kirkus Prize Finalist
CCBC Choices 2024 Selection

“Written in the first person with a compelling dry wit, this story addresses the tough topics of bullying and bipolar disorder with poise and empathy. The potent illustrations, rendered starkly in black, white, and yellow, put it in a class by itself. Often spanning double-page spreads, these masterpieces of design create a powerful atmosphere that deepens, enriches, and fortifies the narrative. Outstanding.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“A tempest-tossed race to locate an ancient Greenland shark upends a family in a heart-wrenching novel reminiscent of The Line Tender . . . . Wry first-person prose by Millwood Hargrave drives Julia’s burgeoning, age-appropriate understanding of her parents as fallible but wholly lovable people in a story.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Such rich and vivid prose . . . makes the setting a character in its own right; you can practically taste the salt on your tongue. The novel is interwoven with beautiful illustrations by Tom de Freston . . . . [T]hey are evocative, emotive, full of movement and language.” —The New York Times

“Pensive and poignant, Julia and the Shark falls readily in line with Ali Benjamin’s The Thing about Jellyfish and Kate Allen’s The Line Tender in its examination of grief and mental health. Poetic shifts in the text and collage-like illustrations—grayscale with yellow accents—add to the story’s loveliness.” —Booklist

“Julia and the Shark is a riveting, dramatic tale in which prose and pictures are perfectly paired.” —BookPage

“The narrative tone and the gorgeous artwork of this UK import come together to present an authentic, compassionate look at a girl flailing in rocky familial waters . . . . The dreamy illustrations underscore the emotions with deft subtlety; dappled shades of yellow and black background the text, eventually shaping into Julia, the shark, and the rough waves she must travel. The depictions of her mother’s struggles with mental health are realistic but tender, placing that condition within the wonderful, caring wholeness that is Mum. Honest but still hopeful, this makes a strong readalike for Allen’s The Line Tender or Kelly’s Song for a Whale.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“This is a poetic look at mental illness. Illustrations invoke the chaotic feelings of a young girl struggling to understand the situation around her, while also trying to make new friends and deal with bullies. The symbolism of the broken lighthouse and the ever-present but elusive shark creates a depth of character that is strengthened by stirring moments when Julia reflects on her own feelings of anxiety and helplessness. The back matter includes resources for learning more about conservation and the environment, as well as resources to support mental health for children and young adults. A poignant book about mental illness that includes timely topics of science and the environment, this is highly recommended.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review

“This book, the literal object, is beautiful. The illustrations show the expanse of the sea and the sky, the overwhelming size of the shark, the many emotions Julia feels as she spends this summer metaphorically and eventually literally adrift. The book, the words of it, is beautiful. This stunning and empathetic look at mental illness is not be missed. Perfect from start to finish.” —Teen Librarian Toolbox

“The story is a conversation starter for families about mental health.” —Daily Mom

“[An] engaging novel of family secrets, mental illness and healing . . . . De Freston's wondrous two-tone illustrations, in yellow and black, offer dramatic depictions of the ocean's mysterious depths, a storm's fury, the stark isolation of the lighthouse, and of the shark that may or may not exist.” —Buffalo News -

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"Julia and the Shark is deep, beautiful and true. The art shines and the writing soars—a classic from cover to cover." —#1 New York Times bestselling author Eoin Colfer

"Truly extraordinary. . . it will redefine what a children's book can look like, in a way that adults will ooh and ahh over, and children will love because the story is wonderful and the art is amazing. It is the kind of book that you will want to have on your shelves and treasure. I can't wait for the world to fall in love with Julia and the Shark!" —Katherine Webber Tsang -

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Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston met in 2009, when Kiran was a student and Tom was artist-in-residence at Cambridge University. They have been a couple and collaborators ever since, following their Barnes & Noble Children's Prize shortlisted Julia and the Shark with Leila and the Blue Fox. Kiran is the award-winning, bestselling author of stories including The Girl of Ink & StarsThe Way Past Winter, and The Deathless Girls, and Tom is an acclaimed illustrator, having worked as an artist for many years. They live in Oxford, UK, with their two cats and their daughter.

Title Details

Pages 224 pages, 2-color illus.

Trim 6 x 8.5 x 0 Inches

Territories US/Can

Category Middle Grade Fiction

Age Range 10 and up

Carton Quantity 22

Leila and the Blue Fox

Leila and the Blue Fox