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Nick Sharratt Biography (1962-) - Sidelights

review book books shark

English author and illustrator Nick Sharratt is known for his child-appealing early-reader books. Sometimes his texts teach numbers, counting, or colors, but usually they are just plain fun for children who are learning to read, note critics. Sharratt generally illustrates his work in bold, bright colors to portray situations from the everyday to the adventurous. In Look What I Found!, for example, a little girl goes to the beach with her family and discovers fascinating objects along the shore, while in Rocket Countdown, readers learn about numbers while getting ready for a moon trip. Sharratt also uses humor in some of his books to keep young readers entertained. Monday Run-Day depicts funny scenes, such as dogs dressed in ties for Friday's tie day; and in Snazzy Aunties, a little boy's aunts wear or carry bizarre accessories.

My Mum and Dad Make Me Laugh, published in the United States as My Mom and Dad Make Me Laugh, is about a boy who has very odd parents. Father always wears clothes with stripes, while Mother always wears outfits with spots. Simon, however, prefers clothes that are gray. When the family goes on a safari, Father likes the animals that have stripes, such as the zebra, and Mother likes spotted creatures, including the leopards. Simon's favorite, though, is the elephant, and this explains why he always dresses in gray. My Mom and Dad Make Me Laugh drew praise from reviewers who enjoyed both Sharratt's narrative and illustrative techniques. School Library Journal contributor Marianne Saccardi lauded the "pleasant, rhythmic quality" of the author's writing, as well as the "cartoon-style crayon drawings perfectly suit[ed to] the child narrator's tone." Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, especially liked the illustrations, calling them "bold and sassy and full of spotty-stripy detail."

Graphic design also comes into play in books such as Ketchup on Your Cornflakes? Here, Sharratt uses a Dutch-door technique that lets children combine pictures in funny ways. Sharratt's text can be split up as well, so that equally inappropriate combinations can created: "Do you like ice cream in your bathtub?" or "Do you like toothpaste on your head?" "Useful as toy, game, and concept book, this seems likely to provoke endless giggles and riffs on the theme," declared Deborah Stevenson in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Sharratt uses the same Dutch-door technique in A Cheese and Tomato Spider to combine people, animals, and various kinds of food.

Another book sure to provoke giggles from the pre-school set is Pants, a book that is one long jingle about underpants. And not just any underpants, but underpants that are "bigger, bolder and more ridiculous than any in real life," Julia Eccleshare declared in the Guardian. There are "giant frilly pig pants," "cheeky little monkey pants," even pants meant to be donned by camel humps. Sharratt's illustrations of Giles Andreae's text "reinforce the sense of fun with a series of gleeful, boldly outlined images in an electric palette," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

In Shark in the Park, Sharratt once again combines "bright, cheerful, clean-lined illustrations and bouncy, repetitive text" to create an "enjoyable" easy reader, in the words of Booklist contributor Todd Morning. A little boy named Timothy has just received a new telescope, and now he is testing it out in the park. He keeps thinking that he sees a shark in the duck pond, and indeed, through a hole cut in the page, the reader can see what appears to be a shark's fin. But upon turning the page, the object in view is always shown to be something else: a cat's ear, a crow's wing, his father's black hair. The final spread reveals the truth—there really is a shark in the duck pond—but Timothy does not see it. Sharratt's carefully engineered illustrations combine with his text to make the point that one should beware of drawing hasty conclusions. "This crafty interactive picture book is one hundred percent bliss and very toothsome indeed," Lyn Gardner declared in the Guardian.

Sharratt has also become known to older audiences as the illustrator of Jacqueline Wilson's massively popular books for middle-graders and young adults. Wilson's stories tackle challenging topics, including death, mental illness, abandonment by one's parents, and the formation of blended families, although often with a light tone. Sharratt's cartoon-like illustrations are a good compliment for Wilson's style, reviewers have generally remarked. For example, Sharratt's drawings for The Lottie Project and The Story of Tracy Beaker, both of which are told partially through journals kept by their pre-teen protagonists, "match the book's informal tone and help lighten some of the more serious moments," as Kitty Flynn wrote in a Horn Book review of the first title, while a Publishers Weekly critic said of The Story of Tracy Beaker, "Sharratt's drawings help to keep the mood light."

Sharratt once told SATA, "I've been making pictures for as long as I can remember, and I was nine when I decided I was going to be an illustrator by profession. As a child, I always wanted the same things for birthdays and Christmas: a bumper pack of felt-tip pens and lots of drawing paper, and I liked nothing better than to spend all day in my room, drawing, eating sweets, and listening to the radio. Nothing's changed—except that nowadays I use other media besides felt tips. A complete workaholic, I find it very hard to have weekends off, and I invariably sneak ongoing projects into my suitcase when I'm supposed to be taking a holiday. That's what happens when you really love your work!"

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Andreae, Giles, Pants, David Fickling Books (Oxford, England, and New York, NY), 2003.

Sharratt, Nick, Ketchup on Your Cornflakes?: A Wacky Mix-and-Match Book, Scholastic (London, England, and New York, NY), 1997.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of My Mom and Dad Make Me Laugh, p. 1845; September 1, 2002, Todd Morning, review of Shark in the Park, p. 137.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of Ketchup on Your Cornflakes?: A Wacky Mix-and-Match Book, pp. 373-374.

Guardian (London, England), May 11, 1999, Philip Pullman, review of The Illustrated Mum, p. 4; October 31, 2000, Vivian French, review of Eat Your Peas, p. 59; December 11, 2001, Lindsey Fraser, review of Remarkable Animals, p. 49; March 12, 2002, Lindsey Fraser, review of Secrets, p. 63; May 29, 2002, Lyn Gardner, review of Shark in the Park, p. 11; November 16, 2002, Julia Eccleshare, review of Pants, p. 33; June 3, 2003, Lindsey Fraser, review of Conjurer Cow, p. 61; September 23, 2003, review of The Beak Speaks, p. 61; October 25, 2003, Julia Eccleshare, review of You Choose, p. 33.

Horn Book, November, 1999, Kitty Flynn, review of The Lottie Project, p. 746; September, 2001, review of The Story of Tracy Beaker, p. 598.

Independent (London, England), February 24, 2001, Nicholas Tucker, "The Fifty Best Books for Children," p. 4.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, p. 727.

New York Times Book Review, July 19, 1998, review of Seaside Poems, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, March 23, 1992, review of I Look Like This and Look What I Found!, p. 71; May 23, 1994, review of My Mom and Dad Make Me Laugh, p. 86; September 25, 1995, review of Rocket Countdown, p. 56; December 18, 1995, review of Elsa, Star of the Shelter!, p. 55; January 12, 1998, review of Double Act, p. 60; July 5, 1999, review of Tickle My Nose and Other Action Rhymes, p. 73; August 9, 1999, review of Stack-a-Plane, p. 355; November 29, 1999, review of The Lottie Project, p. 72; January 3, 2000, review of The Time It Took Tom, p. 74; January 8, 2001, review of Bad Girls, p. 68; July 23, 2001, review of The Story of Tracy Beaker, p. 77; August 13, 2001, review of Vicky Angel, p. 312; June 3, 2002, review of Once Upon a Time, pp. 89-90; April 21, 2003, review of Vicky Angel, p. 65; June 2, 2003, review of Pants, pp. 50-51.

School Library Journal, February, 1992, Andrew W. Hunter, review of Machine Poems, p. 81; June, 1992, Linda Wicher, review of I Look Like This and Look What I Found, pp. 102-103; November, 1992, Linda Wicher, review of The Green Queen, p. 78; December, 1992, Linda Wicher, review of Monday Run-Day, p. 91; August, 1994, Marianne Saccardi, review of My Mom and Dad Make Me Laugh, pp. 145-46; February, 1996, Jane Gardner Connor, review of Elsa, Star of the Shelter!, p. 104; November, 1997, Maura Bresnahan, review of Spider Storch's Teacher Torture, and Carrie A. Guarria, review of Spider Storch's Carpool Catastrophe, p. 103; March, 1998, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Double Act, p. 266; January, 1999, Judith Constantinides, review of Seaside Poems, p. 110; March, 1999, Elaine E. Knight, review of Spider Storch's Fumbled Field Trip and Spider Storch's Music Mess, p. 188; October, 1999, Maureen Wade, review of Christmas Poems, p. 65; January, 2000, Yapha Nussbaum Mason, review of Spider Storch's Desperate Deal, p. 114; March, 2000, Lisa Smith, review of The Time It Took Tom, p. 212; April, 2000, Ginny Gustin, review of Do Knights Take Naps?, p. 116; September, 2000, Lisa Dennis, review of Eat Your Peas, p. 198; March, 2001, Marilyn Ackerman, review of Bad Girls, p. 258; July, 2001, B. Allison Gray, review of The Story of Tracy Beaker, p. 116; October, 2001, Marlyn K. Roberts, review of Vicky Angel, p. 175; December, 2002, Kristin de Lacoste, review of Shark in the Park, p. 108.

Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland), June 3, 2001, review of Eat Your Peas, p. 15.

Sunday Times (London, England), October 29, 2000, Nicolette Jones, review of Vicky Angel, p. 46; August 11, 2002, Nicolette Jones, review of Krazy Kow Saves the World—Well, Almost, p. 47.

Times Educational Supplement, April 25, 2003, Geraldine Brenna, review of Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly, p. 37.

ONLINE

Association of Illustrators Web Site, http://www.theaoi.com/ (February, 1999), interview with Sharratt.

British Broadcasting Company Web Site, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (November 3, 2003), interview with Sharratt.*

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