Julia and the Shark – Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Illustrator: Tom de Freston
Published By: Orion
Pages: 224
Released On: 02/09/2021

“The shark was beneath my bed, growing large as the room, large as the lighthouse, rising from unfathomable depths until it ripped the whole island from its roots. The bed was a boat, that shark a tide, and it pulled me so far out to sea I was only a speck, a spot, a mote, a dying star in an unending sky…”

Julia has followed her mum and dad to live on a remote island for the summer – her dad, for work; her mother on a determined mission to find the elusive Greenland shark. But 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.


I’ve realised that a lot of the best books I’ve read recently are aimed at children and young readers. They don’t try too hard and they don’t patronise, but they’re unashamedly full of heart and meaning.

I think a big commendation has to go to her illustrator husband. The illustrations are so simple and have such emotion to them. They’re not explicitly detailed; it’s clear what the image is, but to me, they’re more about touching your heart and allowing you to decide how the images make you feel, what they mean to you. Some of the illustrated pages are transparent which adds another depth of emotion.

This is a beautifully, lovingly, sensitively written book about mental health and how mental illness affects every aspect of a family’s life. It doesn’t throw it down your throat, but it’s there. To me, the hunt for the shark is less about the animal itself, and more about Julia’s hunt for her own self.

This is advertised as being for readers aged 9+, and I truly believe that includes adults. It is a very important story that will not only stay with young children, but touch the hearts of adults, young and old.

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