Blue Skin of the Sea

Blue Skin of the Sea

4.2 5
by Graham Salisbury

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Eleven interlinked stories tell the tale of a boy coming of age in Kailua-Kona, a Hawaiian fishing village. Sonny Mendoza is a little different from the rest of the men in his family. Salisbury explores characters like Aunty Pearl, a full-blooded Hawaiian as regal as the queens of old; cool Jack, from L.A., who starts a gang and dares Sonny to be brave enough,


Eleven interlinked stories tell the tale of a boy coming of age in Kailua-Kona, a Hawaiian fishing village. Sonny Mendoza is a little different from the rest of the men in his family. Salisbury explores characters like Aunty Pearl, a full-blooded Hawaiian as regal as the queens of old; cool Jack, from L.A., who starts a gang and dares Sonny to be brave enough, cruel enough, to join; mysterious Melanie, who steals his heart; and Deeps, the shark hunter.

But the most memorable character is the sea itself: inviting, unpredictable, deadly. Mendoza men are brave men, but Sonny's courage is of a different kind. Why can't he love and trust the water as the men of his family are meant to do?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This first novel, which takes place on Hawaii between 1953 and 1966, strings together a collection of short stories to form a rare and exquisite narrative necklace. At its center sits Sonny Mendoza, descendant of Portuguese fishermen living in the tiny village of Kailua-Kona. As the book begins, he lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin Keo, since his widowed father is too busy to look after a young son. The unifying thread running through Sonny's youth is his inexplicable fear of the sea, which is finally resolved when he confronts a buried memory of near-drowning. Learning to swim, seeing death firsthand, exchanging a short-lived but passionate series of love letters, facing a bully--Sonny's adventures defy encapsulation without sounding diminished. The incidents together, however, create an extraordinary mood, distilling the most powerful and universal experiences of adolescence. Salisbury's focus and control in presenting events that punctuate young lives is reminiscent of Margaret Mahy, Cynthia Voigt and Jill Paton Walsh--but with a boyish twist that seems particularly timely given the popularity of current titles on masculinity. Salisbury draws on his own youth in the Hawaiian islands to locate these seminal moments in a landscape that, even as the action progresses, disappears in the face of encroaching resort development. While the exotic setting and rites of passage may remind readers of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John , Salisbury writes in a less rarified style. His fluid, unobtrusive command of language never soars above the intended audience: ``She looked exactly like the old pictures of Hawaiian queens, tall and wide, draped in full-length muumuus, with huge bare feet tough as coconut husks.'' Salisbury's notable debut is sure to garner him many fans who will eagerly await forthcoming works. Ages 10-up. (June) .
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-- Sonny Mendoza and his fisherman father live in the village of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. In a series of short stories, Sonny's childhood, teen years, search for identity, and coming of age during the early '50s through mid-'60s are chronicled. Vignettes of life with vivid characters and universal themes such as friends and bravery are presented through scenes of sleepy village life, the fisherman's love affair with the sea, school days, and facing natural enemies such as sharks and hurricanes. From story to story, Sonny and his relatives--and, of course, the ocean--are common threads that tie the book together. Salisbury has a poetic way with language, and his descriptive passages make the ocean and seashore tangible, living things. Dialogue rings true, and the events in a boy's growing up are realistically portrayed. The sixth grade ``gang'' and its bully leader, Jack, as well as a teenage confrontation over a beautiful girl, are particularly well done. Humorous incidents provide insight into the characters. When his father's fishing boat fails to return to port, Sonny's fear of losing him is palpable. Salisbury has successfully created stories that stand alone, yet join together to build a world of people, places, and conflicts that will engage teen readers. --Gail Richmond, Point Loma High School, San Diego

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.60(d)
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Graham Salisbury is the author of several novels, among them the award-winning Lord of the Deep, Blue Skin of the Sea, and Under the Blood-Red Sun.

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Blue Skin of the Sea 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lionclaw watched the kittypet from the bushes. Coralheart nudged Bluefoot and asked "Is that another clan cat?" Bluefoot whispered "No. Its a kittypet." Crystal noticed there were eyes staring at her from the shadows. She got some cat mint from her garden and set it down in front of the forest for the other cats.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So cool i wish I could see what happens next:):):):):):):):)!!!!!!!! To bad the book ends where it does.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is one of my very favorites because it is so descriptive. It also involves a lot of things I can relate to being born and raised here in the small town called Kailua-Kona, living here is like living in a paradise, just like it says in the book. The author, Graham Salisbury depicts every little detail with the utmost care. A bunch of bushes will be described down to the greenish brown leaves and the brightly colored flowers. Being the most descriptive and having the most things that I can relate to The author Graham Salisbury is so good at writing he can just let you imagine standing on the long rock wall of the pier or making you think about how you would feel about not knowing if your father was alive or not. I loved this book and I think every body should read it especially if you live in Hawaii.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is exceptionally good for teenagers. It talks about a boy named Sonny Mendoza that has to learn to cope with his father's feelings. This book has eleven stories that talk about his relatives, enemies, and (most importantly) his father and passed away mother. It discusses some major life issues such as love and loss. It also show Sonny's major feelings on why he won't get into the water.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An adult can easily understand the feelings this young boy is experiencing, some children too. However, the slang used in this book IS NOT school material. Living in the islands you will hear this slang on the street, and some parents may allow there children to use it, but it is not proper nor 7th grade material. One word used many times in Chapters 10 and 11, 'fah-kah'....need I really write its true meaning. Or how about 'fah-king'. Just think 'italian accents' as you try to make this word necessary for a children's book. Not!!!!! An example on how this is used in this book...'Don't fah-king lie to me.' Or again, 'You fah-king haoulie.' Haoulie, pronounced in Hawaii as, 'howlie' is their word for 'white person' or as an older islander told me, ' It is our word for foreigner.' I just feel that parents, adults, teachers need to be aware of what your children are reading in school, and is it really educating them. Please get more involved.