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Review: The Shark King

Long ago in Hawaii, a beautiful young maiden, Kalei, falls in love with a handsome man — not realizing he is the Shark King. When their son, Nanaue is born, Kalei tries to hide what he is, but there is no denying his heritage…or his appetite!

The Shark King
R. Kikuo Johnson
Ages 7-9; Grades 2-3
Toon Books, April 2012, ISBN 978-1-935179-16-0
40 pages, $12.95

Johnson, who won acclaim for his mature teen graphic novel Night Fisher, skillfully makes the switch to children’s comics. He retains both his native Hawaiian setting and his literary bent in this short but enjoyable work. Readers don’t have to be folklore fans to appreciate the humor or excitement, but those who are will also love the traditional rhythm and feel that flows through the work. There is some resolution at the end, though it is clear that this is but one part of a greater collection of tales. The title The Shark King is somewhat of a misnomer, as the story is really more about the King’s son, but that heading — along with the eye-catching cover — should insure that kids pick this one up.

When they do, they’ll be drawn in by Johnson’s beautifully colored art. He sticks to a simple palette of muted blue, green, purple, re, brown, and yellow, with black for lines and shadows and white for highlights. The colors spotlight his keen eye for perspective and movement, which is evident in his ever-changed panel shapes. There is plenty of action to keep readers’ attention and just the right touch of silliness here and there. Both the setting and the characters add some much-needed diversity to comics. This new title is a terrific choice for both graphic novel and folklore collections.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Toon Books.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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