Skip to main content

The Shark King: A Toon Book by R Kikuo Johnson, 39 pp, RL 1.5

When I write a review, I try to be professional and refrain from gushing, but sometimes a book is so spectacular that I can't help myself. The Shark King by R Kikuo Johnson, the newest title from TOON Books is one of those. The Shark King, which I hope might become a series, has action, adventure, mythology, exotic (to me) locales, and a playfully curious, brave protagonist in Nanaue (pronounced nah-NOW-way.) And, on top of a great story, The Shark King is told through artwork that is elegant and vibrant with a timeless feel with Johnson's use of black silhouettes adding a sense of drama and grandeur to the tale. Johnson, who grew up on the island of Maui, drew on Hawaiian folklore, specifically the shape-shifting shark god, Kamohoalii and his son with the insatiable appetite, Nanaue. Best of all, The Shark King is a graphic novel for emerging readers and, aside from the fact that it is just plain great, it represents some much needed, all-around diversity in books of all genres written at this reading level. I arrived home from work at midnight, dragging myself in the door, but when I saw the envelope with this book in it waiting for me, I tore it open, propped up my eyelids and devoured it, twice. Thank you, TOON Books and thank you Mr Johnson for this gem.

Chapter One finds a young woman, Kalei combing the rocks for opihi (op-PEE-hi) which, Johnson tells us,  is a "delicious sea snail." Suddenly, a massive wave is upon her, a wave that seems to have an enormous shark at the heart of it. However, instead of drowning, the young woman is pulled from the sea by a man who returns her opihi to her. As is often the way with mythological tales, a romance follows and soon a baby is on the way. One day Kalei's husband disappears, diving off the cliff, saying only, "I'm making a place for our son at the bottom of the pool." Then, the night before their son is born, he disappears for good, leaving his cape with Kalei, insisting that their son will need it one day.

Nanaue is born, healthy and full of life and with a giant appetite, but with a strange marking on his back. The pages that show Nanaue and Kalei's life on the island are so full of energy and joy that I read the pages over a couple of times. However, this idyllic life soon fades when other islanders discover these two and Nanaue finds he cannot contain his differences enough to keep them from being frightened by him. In the end, it is Nanaue's appetite that gets him into trouble and causes him to finally, desperately, need that mysterious place that his father made for him at the bottom of the pool.


I don't want to give away too many of the details of this engaging story, but I will leave you with a bit more of the superb artwork from this great new book.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started books4yourkids.com in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …