Monday, November 22, 2010

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

Two boys race to a toy box.  One grabs a shark while the other snatches a train.  Thus, the competition begins!  Who will win?  It all depends on the task.  If it is in the ocean or in a hot air balloon, clearly the shark has the upper hand.  On railroad tracks or a seesaw, the train is an unmistakable winner.  The two go through various challenges, such as roasting marshmallows, bowling, shooting baskets, trick-or-treating, and running a lemonade stand.  There are other tasks that neither does well at like video games (no thumbs), a piano recital, or space travel.  Eventually, the boys are called for lunch, so they give up their competition and run off.

Why I Chose It: 
I picked up Shark vs. Train  because I thought my son would enjoy it (which he did).  Most boys (and many girls) love sharks and trains—two tough things.   I was also intrigued by the title.   I thought:  Why on earth would it be necessary for a shark and a train to compete?  As I read though, I realized the story is not about sharks and trains.  Instead, it is a metaphor for people.  We are all designed differently with a unique set of skills, talents, and gifts.    As a result, we do not need to compete with others because it is like sharks and trains competing:  pointless.  Instead, we should work to be our best for ourselves.  Second, it struck me how who “wins” the competition is based on the task.   The same goes for people.  We should not feel bad about ourselves if someone is better at a game, an academic subject, or a sport.  Everyone is made differently.  For instance, my daughter is an excellent artist while my son is a stellar mathematician.  I expect them to do their best at both skills, but I realize one will always have a better painting, and the other will always ace his math test. 

Final Evaluation: 
I think Shark vs. Train is a valuable object lesson for siblings and for friendships.  Let’s celebrate how we are fearfully and wonderfully made--rather than be jealous of how someone else is made “better.”    Check out the author's activity guide for this book. 

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