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Helping Kids Learn About Sharks – Bringing “Norman the Nurse Shark” To Life

Writing a children’s book is something I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school, so finally making it happen has been an incredibly rewarding journey. When we created the characters for Sharks4Kids, I started envisioning their stories, but got busy with our ever-growing education and outreach programs.

A trip to the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas in early 2015 really solidified my desire to write a book and I knew the exact story I wanted to tell.  Compass Cay is known the world over for the nurse sharks that gather on the dock and hang out with humans. I am absolute shark nut, but sitting on the dock with these gorgeous creatures was one of the coolest things I’ve done. I returned to our cottage and started writing immediately.

Norman The Nurse Shark with a Nurse Shark. Photo: Trace Colson
Norman The Nurse Shark with a Nurse Shark. Photo: Trace Colson

Several months later, with a story mostly complete. I started searching for an illustrator. Sean Branigan had offered to do some animations for us, so thought he might be interested in adding a book to his resume. He did a few sketches and I knew right away that he was the guy.  We created a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds in order to produce the book and surpassed our goal considerably. With the increased funds we decided to donate more books, which was one of the main goals of the project to begin with-donate as many books as possible to schools throughout the Bahamas.

The months following were filled with lots of edits for both the story and the images and actually finding a new publisher, as the initial company fell through. Sean’s illustrations are beyond what I had imagined and my husband Duncan Brake did the design and layout. Dr. Jeffrey Carrier, a nurse shark biologist and colleague, wrote the forward as well as doing a lot of editing work.  Melissa Williams and Emma Hartley rounded out the editing team, making sure everything was correct. Our business director Jarrod Sadulski found our publisher and helped us with the process. It was truly a team effort and in late March everything finally came together and we were ready to publish.

When I received the proofs in hand in April, I have to admit I was in tears. Seeing all our hard come together to create such a cool project was a bit overwhelming. Final edits were made and then we had to wait. It was like counting down the days till Christmas when you are a kid.

Norman The Nurse Shark
Norman The Nurse Shark

When we met the delivery truck, I was so excited and overwhelmed. 2000 books is A LOT and I ripped into the first book with car keys, looking nothing short of a crazy lady, I am sure.  The book was here. Norman the Nurse Shark was a reality and it was in my hands. Tears again (this happened several times over the first week) as I skimmed through the pages, beyond thrilled with the final project.

Norman is named after my grandfather who passed away nearly 6 years ago, so this book has a deeper meaning than just my love for sharks. The support from friends, family, shark lovers and the Sharks4Kids team has been amazing and I so grateful. I really cannot thank everyone enough for making this possible. I am also excited to share that I am almost finished writing the 2nd book in the series, so stay tuned!

Norman the Nurse Shark is a 54 page story with a section of shark facts, vocabulary and information at the back.

Norman is a juvenile nurse shark who gets separated from his family when he gets caught in a fish trap. Once he is free from the trap he sets off on the journey to find his family and to discover what kind of animal he is. Along the way Norman ventures through various ocean ecosystems and makes some unlikely friends.”

Norman can purchased at and proceeds from each book support Sharks4Kids education and outreach projects.

Meet Norman the Nurse Shark - FIN-tastic Adventures Episode 1
Jillian Morris Brake
Jillian Morris Brake
Jillian Morris ("Shark Girl") is a marine biologist, shark conservationist, professional videographer/photographer, educator, writer and is absolutely obsessed with sharks. She grew up on the water in Maine and has wrapped her life around the ocean. She is the founder and president of Sharks4Kids, a shark education nonprofit inspiring the next generation of shark advocates through education, outreach, and adventure.



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