Cover image for Shark beneath the reef
Shark beneath the reef
George, Jean Craighead, 1919-2012.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper & Row, [1989]

On the Island of Coronado, a young Mexican fisherman comes of age as he becomes aware of the politics, corruption, and changes around him.
Reading Level:
800 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.3 7.0 5294.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.9 12 Quiz: 10292 Guided reading level: NR.

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On the Island of Coronado, a young Mexican fisherman comes of age as he becomes aware of the politics, corruption, and changes around him.

Author Notes

Jean Craighead George was born on July 2, 1919 in Washington, D.C. She received degrees in English and science from Pennsylvania State University. She began her career as a reporter for the International News Service. In the 1940s she was a member of the White House press corps for The Washington Post.

During her lifetime, she wrote over 100 novels including My Side of the Mountain, which was a 1960 Newbery Honor Book, On the Far Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves, which won the Newbery Medal, Julie, and Julie's Wolf Pack. She also wrote two guides to cooking with wild foods and an autobiography entitled Journey Inward. In 1991, she became the first winner of the School Library Media Section of the New York Library Association's Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature. She died on May 15, 2012 at the age of 92.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7-9. While rewarding, George's ambitious, complex plot demands concentration. Set on the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico, the story revolves around 14-year-old Tomas Torres, whose family is renowned for their skill as shark fishermen. The boy is torn by a decision he must make: to follow in his family's footsteps or pursue his education in hopes of becoming a marine biologist. Slowly played-out events, which include Tomas' burning desire to kill a shark by himself, are filtered through a mosaic of Aztec and Christian religious influences and the galling inefficiency and corruption of the political structure. George makes full use of her setting. Tomas' dives provide opportunities for fact-filled descriptions of the fish in their colorful coral habitat; this beauty is in stark contrast to the grim effects of nearby factory ships that are decimating marine life. The most consistent element throughout is the deep love and loyalty binding the three generations of Tomas' family as they successfully deal with the need to adapt and change in order to survive. Though it will take a strong reader to digest it all, this novel has a thoughtful message for those who persevere. --Phillis Wilson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The troubles of a small family fishing business provide the impetus for George's latest, evocative book. Her descriptions of wildlife and landscape shine more brightly than the plot; nonetheless, the story is among her most suspenseful. Tomas, 14, the innocent, imaginative hero, faces a difficult choice: should he leave school to fish for the rest of his life beside the men of his family, or go on to high school? While he vacillates, he targets a giant shark that has been lingering in the shallows where he swims--a killer he mistakes for a harmless whale shark. This pair of dangers--the shark and the volatile future--will keep readers in genuine doubt as to Tomas's fate. Will corruption and competition bring an end to his way of life? Despite some problems with pacing and a rather forced ending, George's book offers a sensitive portrayal of social change and its effect on a young person's dreams. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-- In the United States of the 21st century, 69% of the adult population is alcoholic, and a chain of government-regulated rehabilitation centers called Soberlife is flourishing. It is the law that minors can commit their parents to a Soberlife facility, as 14-year-old Sam has had to do with his mother in the hope of shielding his younger brother Ollie from her disease. The control which Sam exerts over the lives around him is monumental but has left him with no life of his own. In the end he finds that controlling others is only an illusion, and that Ollie has not been shielded but deeply wounded by his family's deception. The final note of this depressing scenario, however, is a hopeful one. Sam and his mother reveal themselves to each other for the first time and bond together in love and acceptance. The plot has many messages but is not overburdened. The characters of Sam, Ollie, and their mother are vivid, and the sense of foreboding surrounding Ollie's actions carries readers as the point of view shifts with each chapter. A strong story that delivers the chilling realization that the future which Brooks portrays is not very distant. --Nancy Curtin, Port Washington Public Library, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.