Book Review: JULIA AND THE SHARK by Kiran Millwood Hargrave with Tom de Freston (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in yellow on grey image of a
Genre: Contemporary
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: standalone
CW: suicide attempt (overdose)


Book cover for JULIA AND THE SHARK: title in yellow on grey wirllpool and a girl in a yellow jacket

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, the 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…

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Does it surprise anyone that Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s latest book is absolutely stunning? And that this collaboration with her artist husband is visually incredible too?

Nope, not at all surprising!

This is a beautiful story about mental health (particularly bipolar disorder) written with all the care and lyricism I’ve come to expect from her. It is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the last page.

Children absolutely should have “serious topic” books written for them. They have to go through these things, so we shouldn’t patronise them by saying kids books have to be all light and fluffy. And KMH writes about mental health in such a stark and accessible way, and absolutely does not “talk down” to the reader at all. She trusts the readers, treats the subject with the gravity it deserves, but also ensures that there’s so much hope shining through.

This is a book stuffed full of facts and the wonder of the universe, and clearly needed a lot of research to get right. It also really helps to show Julia’s isolation, and the joy of finding someone as engaged by nature as her.

The illustrations are incredible. They are black and white and yellow. That pop of monochromatic colour against the greyscale really pops, making those details stand out. It is so visually engaging, as well as story wise. The pictures tell the story as much as the words, really making this something more than it would have been otherwise (which would still have been brilliant!)

Read my reviews of other books by Kiran Millwood Hargrave:

Young Adult:





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