From School Library Journal
Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 2—When a boy with a toy shark faces a train-wielding companion, it sets off a series of imaginative and very funny contests between fish and machine. The result of each battle depends on the setting. Shark wins at high diving, not surprisingly, while Train comes out on top when it comes to burping. Other face-offs are less immediately obvious: Train stretches vertically to triumph at basketball, while Shark's sharp-toothed clown costume works best for trick-or-treating. In some situations, neither combatant fares well: as Train comments on the scoreless video-game competition, "Sure would help if we had thumbs." The cleverly chosen contests reflect the imaginative powers of kids while retaining the consistent logic that's also essential to play. The notion of a shark and a train trying to be quiet in a library is absurd, for example, but the reasons why neither would succeed make perfect sense. Energetic cartoon illustrations take full advantage of the visual possibilities. Creative use of page space and perspectives gives a fresh look to each new battle. Just-right facial expressions capture the distinct personalities of the two competitors, including an evil grin from Shark at the Ping-Pong table and Train's uneasy look during a disastrous piano recital. Subtler visual details add to the humor, including a shark-jumping Fonzie reference that adults will appreciate. This inspired pairing, executed with ingenuity and packed with action and humor, is a sure winner.—Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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