Module 6: Shark vs. Train


I loved Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtnenheld. The story begins with two little boys each grasping a toy – one a shark, the other a train. They try to outdo each other in skill, speed and force, but realize that each is just naturally better at some things than others. The train can roast marshmallows using his bellows but the shark does much better on the high dive. Nobody wants to go on the shark ride at the carnival, while everyone loves the train rollercoaster. The shark does much better at hot air ballooning than the heavy train who just crashes to earth. The story has just the right amount of silly fancifulness combined with a good lesson in understanding ones strengths as well as those of others. The absurdity of trying to do something clearly impossible is well illustrated. The idea that one person isn’t better than the other, just different, is a good one for younger children to hear. I would recommend to everyone with a child under the age of 6. Wonderful!!

Shark vs. Train would be a good book to read in a story time for children between the ages of 4-7. The book would lend itself to a discussion afterwards. I would have an opening question such as, “What is something you are very good at doing?”  The children would be happy to share their special strengths and talents and further understand that each child is good at something, but not necessarily everything.


Barton, Chris and Lichtenheld, Tom. Shark vs. Train (2010) New York, Hachette Book Group.

Review One

This is a genius concept—the kids’ equivalent of a classic guy bull session, centering on two playmates’ favorite toys. So, who’s better—Shark or Train? That all depends. When trick-or-treating, Shark is the clear winner, thanks to his intimidating smile (“The clown is very hungry,” he says, as a bowl of candy is poured into his bag). But in a marshmallow-roasting contest, Train triumphs by virtue of his built-in, coal-stoked rotisserie. Just when readers will think the scenarios can’t get more absurd (bowling, a burping contest), the book moves into even funnier territory: hypotheticals in which neither comes out on top (their imposing presences make them ripe targets for getting shushed in a library, and their lack of opposable thumbs means neither is very good at video games). Lichtenheld’s (Duck! Rabbit! ) watercolor cartoons have a fluidity and goofy intensity that recalls Mad magazine, while Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers) gives the characters snappy dialogue throughout. “That counts as a strike, right?” says Shark, having eaten an entire lane of bowling pins. “This is why you guys have a bad reputation,” retorts Train.

Publishers Weekly [Review of the book Shark vs. Train]. Retrieved from

Review Two
Maybe they haven’t pitted this exact pair against one another, but there’s little doubting young boys’ ability to spend hours and considerable blocks of imagination smashing different toys together in a knock-down, drag-out battle royale for romper-room supremacy. The opening spread shows two boys digging through a toy box, each pulling out a fearsome competitor. In this corner, there’s Shark (I’m going to choo-choo you up and spit you out); and in the other, Train (Ha! I’m going to fin-ish you, mackerel-breath). The bout gets progressively more ridiculous with each escalating shift in setting and rules. Early rounds in the ocean and on the tracks are split; Shark has the upper hand on the high-dive, and Train in giving carnival rides. Neither turns out to be much good at the Extreme Zombie-Squirrel Motocross video game (no thumbs) or sword fighting on a tightrope. Barton’s imaginative and wacky scenarios are knocked home by Lichtenheld’s ferociously funny artwork and will leave kids measuring up their dump truck and T-Rex for the next tale of the tape. Preschool-Grade 1. –Ian Chipman
Chipman, I. Booklist [Review of the book Shark vs. Train]. Retrieved from

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