I totally bought this book for the cover… A girl called Julia and the shark, it’s beautiful!!! I am all about the wild ocean and a glance at the incredible illustrations and this book was calling my name…
And then I got reading, it is a story about a girl and her parents, who move to a remote island amongst the Shetland Islands, for the summer, because her dad works on lighthouses. It just so happens that her mum is a marine scientist (Yes, role model right there!!!), who is looking for a particular and extremely rare Greenland shark.
This is a book about discovery as we become aware of her mum’s mental illness and how the family copes with it. Her mum has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, which is very vague diagnosis but we quickly realise that her highs are high and her lows are low. As Julia’s mum searches for mysterious shark, so the shark begins to enter Julia’s dream world… and When her mum eventually can’t carry on her research anymore, Julia heads out on her own adventure, to fulfil her mother’s quest.
This book is glorious, without “glamourising” or “preaching,” you get a very good look at the world, of living with a parent who struggles with mental health issues, through the eyes of a brave and caring child. In an era where it is a lot easier to talk about mental health than during my childhood, the taboo and hushed conversations regarding it still linger.
I loved this read and it is perfect for raising awareness of mental health, but the book is actually all about the most fantastic adventure and the most determined young character.
I am thrilled to discover books like this on middle grade shelves, it’s beautiful, it is richly illustrated, it gently tackles a difficult topic all under the guise of a wonderful and spirited adventure. Perfect reading for kids who love the ocean, who love wild adventures and who have friends, or they themselves, live in a home that is affected by tricky mental health issues. A glorious and triumphant tale… I loved this book.