Review: Sharky Marky and the Scavenger Hunt by Lance Olsen ★★★★

Sharky Marky and the Scavenger HuntSharky Marky and the Scavenger Hunt (An Alphabetic Adventure) finds Sharky Marky in a car race as he races to find different items in a scavenger hunt, each corresponding to a letter in the alphabet. Written in rhyming verse, it’s a sweet, good-natured children’s book with colorful and detailed illustrations.

Like Sharky Marky and the Big Race, Scavenger Hunt begins with a stoplight countdown. Sharky Marky then races to the finish line to find each item in the alphabet. First, Sharky sees some algae (“Marky scoops up some Algae, his first on the list. As he speeds by Eddy – it creates quite a mist.”) Other things he discovers on his scavenger hunt are barnacles, a quill, and an urchin.

The trouble with these discoveries is that Olsen doesn’t explain what they are on each page. The illustration for algae, for example, just looks like a green smudge. At the end of the book, there’s a list of definitions for each item – “Algae: Little tiny plants that float in the ocean” – which is helpful, but this could have been better served if it was within the story itself.

Children won’t commit these words to memory if they don’t know what they’re seeing. Other items on the list are easy to identify – such as shoes, a guitar, a mirror, and the like – but given this is a book about an undersea world, there needs to be an explanation about each item on the list.

Additionally, part of the fun of a scavenger hunt is the search, and all Sharky Marky is doing is finding a new item on each page. Why exactly is he able to find old earmuffs on a dock, for example? If the search was tied into the story as well, rather than just Sharky Marky easily coming upon them on each page, it would be more dramatic and engaging. This is a similar issue to Sharky Marky and the Big Race, in which he’s able to win the race without much of a challenge.

Put together – the lack of description for each item, and the lack of context for why the items are in the path – and the book lacks an important narrative pull, which takes away from the learning element in an alphabet book. Perhaps if the book was a scavenger hunt in itself, in which readers need to find the item hidden on each page, this would be more exciting, as well as help readers commit different words to memory. As it stands, when Sharky Marky wins the scavenger hunt, it’s a bit too easy and lacks some drama.

Looking past these concerns, there is a lot to like in Sharky Marky and the Scavenger Hunt. As with The Big Race, the illustrations of all the different animals are vivid and eye-catching. There are lots of details to look for on each page, such as a school of ducks wearing scuba gear. Children will delight lingering on each page, and there are a lot of interesting new words to learn. But the book is a bit too simple, even for a very young age range, and could do with more engaging challenges for the reader.


Sharky Marky and the Scavenger Hunt

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