Rita Crayon Huang's Reviews > Shark vs. Train

Shark vs. Train by Chris  Barton
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's review
Jan 03, 2011

it was amazing

Brilliant concept. Genius!! This book is a perfect gift for every imaginative three-to-eight year old you know (and that's all of them), by which I mean that you-know-it-when-you-see-it stage that often starts before three and lasts well beyond eight--when kids start randomly pretending they're tigers and panda bears, engaging in contests, liking trains . . . Okay, this book is for everyone. You see a kid, and you can't help but want to give them this book. (That's my favorite Chinese grammar construction, by the way: "can't help but." Fei bu ke. Wo fei gei ni zhe ben shu bu ke! Probably doesn't even make sense.)

This book is doubly genius from a writer's perspective, in that I can't imagine the audacity of the author, Chris Barton, coming up with this magnificent concept ("Shark vs. Train: Who Will Win?") and proposing a whole string of ridiculous contests, and then punting the problem of the outcomes to the illustrator. Hahahaha!! (Of course, many of the contests appear to have foregone conclusions when you read the book. But imagining writing it before the illustrations existed is hilarious.)

UPDATE: Alas! As I was posting this, I realized I could--and should--look up the reality behind my fantasy of this book's making. I went to Alvina's "Beyond the Book" blog post about Shark vs. Train, and now . . . all is explained. Chris Barton did not punt his magnificent concept to whichever illustrator the publisher chose. Instead, said illustrator, Tom Lichtenheld, immediately obtained explicit permission from Little, Brown to collaborate directly with the author, and they back-and-forthed intensely between themselves and their editor throughout. (This is an exception. Normally, picture book writers and illustrators that have been paired by a publisher do not communicate, and authors expect to have little-to-no influence on illustrations once their stories have sold. Hence, my fantasy.)

Read more about it at the above link. You can even see a piece of Chris Barton's original manuscript there, including dialog, and an alternate cover! From there you can also follow further links, such as to this fascinating interview at Seven Impossible Things, which includes Shark Vs. Train outtakes!
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