By Tegan Conner
A young woman named Kalei is out searching for food one day somewhere in Hawaii. A great wave comes up and washes her into the ocean. A mysterious stranger whom she falls in love with rescues her. Together, they have a child. Just a day before the child is born, Kalei discovers the man she loves is really the Shark King. She gives birth to Nanaue, who grows and begins to explore his world and attempt to feed his seemingly insatiable hunger. When the villagers discover Nanaue’s secret, he must flee and seek the father he never knew.
Colorful art, reminiscent of Hawaiian art and classic comics, illustrates this story. Simple bold lines outline the characters and the setting. The panels are clearly delineated and when there aren’t defined panels, the spreads are easy to “read” and understand. The cover is enticing, but somewhat misleading about the story inside; readers will forget that as they settle into a story with a distinctly historical and mythological feel to it. THE SHARK KING will easily transport readers into a time and place when Hawaii was tropical, simple, and colorful.
The only issue I see with this art, although it is mainly due to the setting of the story, is that there are five distinct instances of Nanaue’s rear end. Four of these instances are in a full page spread as he toddles around while the first is introducing him. I do picture kids snickering over that, on the other hand, the literary and art merit of the book overrule that in this case.
My Rating: Grades 2-3
Publisher’s Rating: Grades 2-3
Lexile Level: 150-300
Guided Reading Level: Level 3
Reading Recovery: 17-19
IN THE CLASSROOM
Toon Books almost always deserve a look from educators. This title in particular fits nicely into mythology units and interests as this is based on Hawaiian myth, which is not often touched upon. The author’s biography discusses more about how this is his version of the myth of the Shark King’s son. This is also an appropriately leveled title for young readers who are just starting to explore easy chapter books (this is broken into three clear chapters) and comics.
As an added bonus, Toon Books even has links to lesson plans for THE SHARK KING which can be really handy when trying to integrate comics into the classroom. The plans include book pairings and some worksheets.
Author: R. Kikuo Johnson
Illustrator: R. Kikuo Johns
Publisher: Toon Books
Genre: Mythology, Easy/Early Reader
I’d highly recommend this for an elementary school library and public library as THE SHARK KING will easily hold a young reader’s interest as the student explores why Nanaue is hungry, how he feeds himself, and whether or not he’ll meet his father. There’s also the fact that this is mythology for Hawaii. For students who enjoy mythology, this is a great introduction to a mythology apart from Greek and Roman. This book is entertaining and transports the reader to a simpler, magical time. If you are looking for an appropriate early reader graphic novel, give this a look.