Welcome to my stop on the TBR and Beyond Tours Book Tour for Shark Summer by Ira Marcks. When TBR and Beyond got this as a tour I was all for it – bring me all the graphic novels! Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the tour schedule for other content creators.
Thank you to Ira Marcks and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with an ARC for this review
Ira Marcks is a cartoonist living in Upstate New York with his wife, two cats, a dog, and lots of books he’s been meaning to read. His love for ancient magic and possible futures has led him to create a warehouse of esoteric objects for the Hugo Award-winning magazine Weird Tales and to tell stories about villainous technology for the European Research Council. Shark Summer is his debut graphic novel.
About The Book
Title: Shark Summer
Author: Ira Marcks
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: May 25, 2021
Page Length: 302
Genre: Contemporary | Graphic Novel
Age Range: Middle Grade
“Shark Summer is bursting with vibrant, expressive art….The characters are distinct and relatable…It’s a lovely read!”—Molly Knox Ostertag, author of the Witch Boy series
“Eloquently chronicled in Marcks’s cinematic panels, friendships are formed and repaired, parental relationships articulated, and inner conflicts expressed and resolved. A winning production.” —Kirkus
When a Hollywood film crew arrives on Martha’s Vineyard with a mechanical shark and a youth film contest boasting a huge cash prize, disgraced pitcher Gayle “Blue Streak” Briar sees a chance to turn a bad season into the best summer ever.
After recruiting aspiring cinematographer Elijah Jones and moody director Maddie Grey, Gayle and her crew set out to uncover the truth of the island’s own phantom shark and win the prize money. But these unlikely friends are about to discover what happens when you turn your camera toward the bad things lurking below the surface.
This was a cute middle grade read. Despite the size, it was a quick read. The story was simple enough with a little bit of mystery. I found it to be a younger read than I would normally pick up, but it tackled some more difficult topics. There was one character that was bullied, another that was a new kid, and the last main character felt ignored by his father. Marcks’ handled these topics well, even with them taking more of a back seat.
There are moments where Marcks shows humour that were fun and didn’t dominate the scene (more tongue-in-check style), which I think fit the story well. Upon opening the graphic novel, the art style takes a more comic panel feel (screaming a retro feel) that would feel at home with the older Archie, Calvin and Hobbes, and Baby Blues strips.
I loved the contrast Marcks has managed to show between a scene with more action and scenes that want us to take a moment and breathe. The panels are always vibrant, but still manages that retro feel.
The mystery of finding this Town’s legend was interesting enough, and with the added town characters you get the feeling of a town hiding their little history. I loved the heavy nod towards 80s movies. Throughout this entire comic you can see that Marcks loves movies. Even I was able to see the homage to Jaws. Those who have watched it will see all the hidden – and not so hidden – pieces of trivia throughout the graphic novel. While talking to my husband about them calling the mechanical shark Bruce, he immediately said “just like Jaws”. I was finally like, oh yeah so this movie is definably a fictionalized version of Jaws.
What inspired you to write Shark Summer?
I was looking for a reason to visit the summer of 1974 on Martha’s Vineyard. This was when Stephen Spielberg and his crew arrived on the island to film JAWS. I love stories about the creative process, especially ones about filmmaking. I’d read a few books about the behind the scenes of JAWS and the way it turned the island into a pop culture landmark. It seemed like the perfect moment in time to tell a story about friendship and storytelling.
The Black Cat Creamery is such a fun name for an ice cream shop! What inspired the name?
I like to think that my version of the Vineyard is a bit of an alternate reality; the name is a reference to the famous tavern in Vineyard Haven Harbor called The Black Dog.
Elijah is clearly a film buff. Do you share his love of movies too? Were the movies mentioned in the graphic novel based off any real life ones (I got Jaws vibes from the main movie)?
Yeah, I’m a big fan of movies. I think Elijah and I would get along really well. The JAWS reference is the only specific reference in the book. The other films Elijah talks about are fake but each of them represents different eras and genres of film. For example, the fake movie Fog Frog that Elijah loves is a little nod to German Expressionist films of the 1920s such as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.
Was there a specific legend that inspired the Phantom Shark?
I wanted to capture a certain feeling with that story so I tried to evoke a few styles of creepy fiction. First, the tale was inspired by writers of weird fiction like HP Lovecraft and Arthur Machen. They both are able to evoke the horror of coming face to face with the unknowable mysteries of the universe. Second, I wanted the story to hold a bit of truth. To get that effect I drew inspiration from melodramatic New England ghost stories like Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Without spoilers, what was your favorite scene to draw?
I had a great day drawing what I call the Elderberry Bluff scene. If you’ve read the book, you probably know what page I’m talking about 🙂
Was there anything that you learned while working at WeirdTales or during your process of creating Witch Knots, The Aquarium Drift, and The Exploit that helped you create Shark Summer?
With each new book I’ve learned to take the responsibility of the storyteller more seriously. I’ve been lucky enough to have shared all my books in classrooms and I’ve seen the deep effect a story can have on a young reader. While I certainly want to be true to myself with each new project, I also find myself thinking a lot about the experience of the young reader and what my stories are offering them.
Are you working on anything else? Are you able to tell us about it?
I’m working on a follow up to Shark Summer which is set in the same world of movie fans and secret histories. This time we’ll be visiting an infamous hotel deep in the Rocky Mountains…