Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jaunty prose and artwork join forces in this adaptation of a Hawaiian folktale in which a slip of a boy outwits the treacherous King of Sharks. Some years before, Punia's father was eaten by sharks while trying to catch lobsters, and now, hoping to assuage his mother's craving for the delicacy, Punia determines to trick the shark king. Three times he steals lobster from the king's private supply, and three times he causes the king to distrust his closest followers until, on the fourth attempt, Punia fights the king alone. Wardlaw's (The Tales of Grandpa Cat) text breezes along, filled with the natural cadences of speech and studded with vivid images ("fat lobsters, red as sunset, sweet as coconut"). Davalos (The Sea Serpent's Daughter) depicts life above and below sea level in varying shades of blue-green, bright and flat in the island light. His sharks grin demonically, yet are comical rather than frightening, gullibility apparent on their placid snouts. In contrast, Punia is all movement, mischievous and wily. The verdant island setting gives the light-hearted text a firm foundation, a sense of place and history, imbuing the story with the quality of local legend. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This interesting adaptation of a Hawaiian folktale tells of Punia and his widowed mother. Punia's father was killed by sharks while diving to find lobster for his family to eat. The sharks guard the entrance to a cave where the lobsters live. Punia's family needs the lobster to eat, so Punia connives to trick the sharks in various ways so that he may dive into the cave and retrieve the lobsters. Punia comes close to being eaten but succeeds in various ways in catching the lobsters. The illustrations of Hawaiian village life and the use of some native language terms adds to the story.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3Since Punia's father was eaten by sharks while fishing, the boy and his mother have subsisted on yams and poi instead of lobster. One day while Punia stares longingly at the cave where the lobsters live, he sees the sharks sleeping and gets an idea. As they swim toward a big rock he has thrown in the water, Punia dives into the cove and snatches several lobsters. This is only the first of several, even more complicated tricks that he dreams up until he banishes the sharks forever from his cove. Wardlaw's adaptation of a traditional Hawaiian trickster tale has an added element of nail-biting suspense, for in playing his final trick Punia becomes a bit too bold and almost ends up in the shark king's belly. Of course, his quick wits save him in the end, and peace is restored to Hawaiian waters and lobster meat to Punia's table. Davalos evokes the lush setting of a tropical island with his richly colored illustrations. The layout is nicely balanced throughout the book to carry the story forward and underscore its drama. A welcome addition to trickster tales from other cultures.Barbara Kiefer, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
This engrossing Hawaiian folktale combines lyrical language and a lush setting.
Punia and his mother eat a boring diet of yams and poi because 11 frightening sharks guard the underwater cave where succulent lobsters can be found. The independent boy comes up with a clever idea to lure the sharks away, and catches his prize of two lobsters. Through trick after trick, Punia not only gains food but schemes to have the sharks banish one another from the area. When only he and the King of Sharks are left, his last trick fails. A few suspenseful sentences later, the shark problem is solved, and Punia is hailed as the new King of Sharks. The structure of the tale is timeless, and the artwork enhances every word. Davalos takes full advantage of the setting, both underwater and on land, capturing the shape of the lurking lobsters as well as the fierce aspects of the sharks; Punia's personality is caught in his sly smiles as he confidently hatches each plan. A skillful creation of a fantasy world.