October 29, 2012

Review: The Shark King

The Shark King By R. Kikuo Johnson
Available now from Toon Books (Candlewick)

Candlewick's Toon Books line is extremely cool.  They're easy-to-read comics made by artists who normally write for adults.  It's a great way to introduce little kids to some great art.  Plus, I think the comic format makes them even easier for beginning readers, because the pictures provide even more context than a standard picture book.

I love R. Kikuo Johnson's art and he does a great job with THE SHARK KING.  The colors are bold but not overwhelming.  The images are simple and clean.  There's a nice mix of definite and indefinite panels, allowing the action to move smoothly.  And I love the way Johnson draws expressions!  Some of protagonist Nanaue's more mischievous looks remind me of my nephew.

THE SHARK KING is an adaptation of a traditional Hawaiian folktale.  Kalei has a child with the Shark King, who has to return to the ocean after their son is born.  Nanaue grows to be a quick, clever boy who steals fish from the fisherman to keep his belly full.  But as much as he loves his mother, he also misses his father.

It's a sweet, simple story.  It's a bit of a bittersweet ending, but nothing that would upset children.  It's probably to simple to hold the attention of older kids although they might enjoy Johnson's art.

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