I would class this book as a dinosaur book rather than a shark book, although strictly speaking that isn't really correct either as only land animals can be classed as dinosaurs. But this does cover the same time period and as strange and fascinating as dinosaurs themselves might be, their sea going cousins are even stranger. I found the vast majority of creatures in this book completely unfamiliar, and some were so bizarre it was hard to believe they were real In fact we turned to Google more than once just to make sure, as my son just would not believe a few of them.
This book begins with the Paleozoic Era, starting off with invertebrates, many of which I could never have imagined, such as 2 metre long marine scorpions. The book includes amphibians, although these would be exclusively freshwater. Molluscs, fish, reptiles, early birds and even the first marine mammals in the Mesozoic Era are included. My sons love penguins as well so we were happy to see the inclusion of hesperornis, meant to be a prehistoric penguin, although with its pointed beak full of teeth it bares little resemblance to Pingu. Of course sharks are included, but they only cover a small section of this book. By the title one might have expected much more. Helicoprion forced us to turn to Google yet again as my son was absolutely convinced the artist had made this one up. The oceanic reptiles made up the largest section of the book and with good reason. There are so many fascinating creatures. My boys especially loved the large pop up skeleton of a Kronosaurus.
If you read Amazon's description of this book, you may find yourself put off by the fact that this book only contains 12 pages. But what Amazon does not tell you is that in addition to one incredible pop out, each page also contains smaller pages which open out to reveal far more pop outs and information. I can only describe these smaller pages as mini books in their own right. Having actually seen this book before purchase, I would have to agree it was well worth the recommended retail price.
My oldest son was six years old at the time and was absolutely delighted by this book and spent hours looking through it. Even my youngest, aged 2 at the time loved it, although it was kept on a shelf out of his reach until recently, and even now he knows this is a book that is meant to be used with Mommy present. While these pop ups appear relatively sturdy and very well made, I have found any pop up books can be easily damaged by very young children. In particular, if you fail to close the mini books on each page, then the main page will not close correctly and this could cause damage to the large pop up on each two page spread.
The reading level of this book is very advanced, I would recommend this book for children of at least 8 and quite possibly 10+ if they are to read it on their own. Even with an adult reading it, the subject matter is really too advanced for a child under age 5, so when reading this to my youngest, I often simplify the text a bit rather than reading word for word. I just tell him a bit about creature and allow him to enjoy the pop ups with supervision. At age seven, my oldest still really enjoys this, and I feel he gets more out of this now than he did last year. I expect this book will continue to hold his interest as long as he likes dinosaurs and prehistoric life. As an adult I would happily read this, even if I did not have children. It just has so much new and fascinating information.
Of course the main selling point of this book is the pop ups, and these do not disappoint. The artwork in this is honestly stunning. But unlike may pop up books they have not relied completely on beautiful pop outs and have also included a very informative and well written text.
My overall opinion of this book is that it is absolutely brilliant. We enjoyed it so much we saved up and bought the other two books in this series. If you are looking for a book just on Sharks though, you might find this book a disappointment. I do feel the title is just a bit misleading, and sharks are not the main subject of this book.