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The Shark King: TOON Level 3 Hardcover – April 10, 2012
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Johnson’s beautiful, graphic style recalls, of all things, Gilbert Hernandez’ early Palomar comics, with zippy figures set against equatorial backgrounds distinguished by a few key features—a waterfall and fruit tree here, a tidal pool and coral reef there. The crafty panel layouts plunge into a couple of full-bleed splash pages with all the exhilaration of a high dive. While simple enough to keep brand-new and below-level readers in tow—and strengthen their vocabulary with contextual clues—this charming, high-energy Hawaiian fable will reveal deeper layers to more intuitive readers.
—Booklist (starred review)
Sharks, superpowers, and the comic-panel format will initially lure in readers, but the subtext of bullying, parental separation, and self-discovery will stay with them long afterward. The characters’ rounded black outlines convey strong energy and emotion, while the panels and spreads feature a lush, colorful Hawaiian setting.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
This graphic novel, which works either as a read-aloud or as a step toward chapter books for young readers, offers a story especially appealing to boys who long to be just like Dad.
—The New York Times
About the Author
Kikuo spent his childhood exploring the rocky shore in front of his grandmother’s house at low tide and diving with his older brother. Since moving to the mainland, Kikuo has discovered the joys of swimming in fresh water and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he enjoys cooking, playing his ukulele, and riding his bike all over the city.
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I love R. Kikuo Johnson's art and he does a great job with THE SHARK KING. The colors are bold but not overwhelming. The images are simple and clean. There's a nice mix of definite and indefinite panels, allowing the action to move smoothly. And I love the way Johnson draws expressions! Some of protagonist Nanaue's more mischievous looks remind me of my nephew.
THE SHARK KING is an adaptation of a traditional Hawaiian folktale. Kalei has a child with the Shark King, who has to return to the ocean after their son is born. Nanaue grows to be a quick, clever boy who steals fish from the fisherman to keep his belly full. But as much as he loves his mother, he also misses his father.
It's a sweet, simple story. It's a bit of a bittersweet ending, but nothing that would upset children. It's probably to simple to hold the attention of older kids although they might enjoy Johnson's art.
Ds was taken with this mythological tale of a "shapeshifter" right from the beginning pages. He has become very good at predicting what will happen and was delighted when his early prediction here was finally revealed. He was fascinated with the Hawaiian culture and the strange little boy who was growing into a shapeshifter like his father. A well written story, with beautiful art work. The tale is haunting and odd, yet appealing. Ds wants the book for his own bookcase. This is a high honor to bestow any book as he has no interest in owning books and for one to appeal so much to him, that he wants to own it and have it in his room is praise indeed! I would very much like to see more work from this author.
Their son is born and develops an appetite for fish. He loves the water and is gone for hours at a time. After raiding the fishing nets of the villagers, he is hunted down and forced to go out to sea to be with his father.
This book, in my opinion, will whet the appetite of my boys to where they will want to read more folktales. The fact that the boy had a mouth with teeth that would appear from his back will keep them reading. Stories with Shape shifters or changelings will be sought after.
I was unfamiliar with the myth of Nanaue before reading THE SHARK KING. After reading the book, I did some research and discovered that Johnson portrays Nanaue in a much more favorable light in THE SHARK KING than according to the Hawaiian myths (in the original stories, Nanaue develops a taste for human flesh and kills people and is eventually captured and killed himself). This version of the myth works for a graphic novel geared towards young children. Instead of being a creature to be feared and hunted, in THE SHARK KING Nanaue is portrayed as a playful and mischievous child who the reader comes to emphasize with.
The art in THE SHARK KING is graceful and seeped in Hawaiian influence. The illustrations aren't overly cartoonish, nor or they too realistic.
I really enjoyed THE SHARK KING. It was a story I was unfamiliar with and has given me a desire to search out other Hawaiian myths. Perhaps Johnson will bring other Hawaiian myths to life in future works.