Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld

Shark vs. Train
by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld
Little, Brown and Company, 2010

Competition has been a big problem in my classroom this year. For a few of the kids, it's always a race to the door when they're called to line up, with no tolerance for someone getting their place back in line once the order is set. The drama of the soccer field at lunch recess lasts well into the afternoon, and both Connect 4 and Battleship were put away during indoor recess season because of constant (loud) bickering about who won or whose turn it was to play. Grades on papers are not seen as a reflection of one's hard work and progress in learning, rather they are numbers with which to "verse" one another.


I'm adding Shark vs. Train to my stack of beginning-of-the-year books so that we can start the year next year with a conversation about how ridiculous competition can be. (Yes, crazy me -- four days left and I'm thinking about next year already!!)

The set-up to the story is two little boys (sorry, guys, but yes, it's mostly your problem...) diving into a toy box and coming up with a shark and a train. The two toys go head-to-head in some situations where the winner is obvious -- in the ocean or on railroad tracks -- not so obvious -- roasting marshmallows or eating pies -- or downright tricky -- playing hide-and-seek or trying not to get shushed in the library.

In this book, the escalated competition is preempted by a call to lunch. Hopefully, in my classroom next year, it can be preempted by a humorous look at competition from the first day.

How the book came to be -- a peek behind the scenes by editor Alvina Ling at Blue Rose Girls.
Chris Barton's blog.
Tom Lichtenheld's blog.


  1. Thanks for sharing competition is a problem in your class too. I love your personal connection and now need this for my room next year. Me First is another great book for this problem.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Mary Lee. I'm glad to know I'm not the only elementary school teacher who deals with the competition issue. I look forward to sharing this one with my 4th graders.

  3. I read this right before school got out. The boys loved it the girls had the look of "you've got to be kidding!"

  4. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing about this book. My school is known for its competitive and talented students, but often times, these little guys take it a little too far. I often have times with the competition becoming so fierce that my second graders will lose sight of things that really matter, such as true friends and doing their absolutely best in school. They focus too much on quickest, smartest, best dressed, and much more. I am VERY excited to share this book with my little munchkins!


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