From the Publisher
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
Johnson is a talented cartoonist, and 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 Book Review
Maritime cultures around the world have tales of otherworldly beings who take human spouses, some malevolent, some benevolent, and some too alien for human concepts to apply. In this variation, a Hawaiian woman named Kalie catches the eye of a handsome young man. It is only after their love produces the boy Nanaue that Kalie learns that her strange suitor is none other than the Shark King, a polymorphic being of great power. The Shark King, concerned for the future of his son, abandons his wife to build a refuge for Nanaue, leaving his wife with an unsatisfactory explanation and an odd but endearing boy. As Nanaue grows, he will be faced with a choice: remain with his human mother, isolated from society, or embrace his father’s heritage and seek his fortunes under the sea. The Shark King is straightforward but engaging, led by Johnson’s standout, classically influenced art. Ages 4–up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
Long ago in Hawaii, a beautiful woman named Kalei fell in love with a mysterious stranger who turned out to be the mythical Shark King! But when Kalei gives birth to the Shark King's son Nanaue, she realizes she must keep Nanaue's true parentage a secret from the other islandersespecially when she learns Nanaue possesses a second shark-toothed mouth on his back! Soon, however, Nanaue's superhuman appetite, incredible swimming ability, and extra mouth become difficult to hideand the boy grows even more curious about his absent father. Can Nanaue find a way to reunite with his father before the islanders discover who he really is? Based on the stories of the Hawaiian shape-shifting shark god Kamohoalii, The Shark King, while still kid-friendly, deals with slightly more mature themes of alienation and identity than other books included in this "TOON" series. This allows this early-reader graphic novel to reach a wider age range than some of the other books published by this imprint, and helps ease younger readers into graphic novels intended for an older audience. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
School Library Journal
Gr 2–3—A retelling of a traditional Hawaiian tale about Kamohoalii, a shape-shifting shark god. A young woman named Kalei falls in love with a mysterious man who rescued her from a shark attack. They marry and move to a cottage by the sea where they met. The night before their child is born, the man tells her that he must go where he can "protect" his son, as it is not safe for him in the world. As he starts to grow scales and fins while escaping to the water, Kalei realizes that her husband is the Shark King. The baby is born, and Kalei names him Nanaue. He grows up to be a normal, happy child except for two things: he has a shark mouth growing out of his back and a voracious appetite that is never satisfied. Eventually, Nanaue is faced with danger in the world and must go to the one place where he can be safe—the sea. The story is broken up into easily digestible chapters. The muted primary color palette complements the simple text and the graphic art. There is a clear progression of the story that is facilitated by the page layout, but the fact that not every panel is displayed in the same format creates good variety. Kids will enjoy this simple yet mysterious story.—Rita Meade, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
The Shark King's deadly son gets an extreme makeover in this version of a traditional tale from Hawaii. Born to a loving human woman, Nanaue is a happy child (rather than the flesh-eating monster of yore) with a huge appetite and a jagged line on his back that sometimes opens into a snapping, toothy mouth. His mischievous nature soon leads him into trouble, and he dives off a cliff to escape angry villagers from whom he had been stealing fish. This unites him with his father--a huge shark who had taken human form to marry Nanaue's mother, Kalei, but returned to the sea on the night of his birth. Johnson presents a quickly told story in bright, fluidly drawn sequential panels of varying size and shape, with a mix of narrative and dialogue. Set against a rocky shoreline and underwater scenes teeming with sea life, his brown-skinned, lightly clad characters gesture and move with smooth naturalism, displaying both distinct personalities and expressions from comical to noble. A myth involving rampant anthropophagy transformed into a lightly sketched tale of parent-child bonding. (Graphic folktale. 7-9)