cover image THE SHARK GOD


Rafe Martin, , illus. by David Shannon. . Scholastic/Levine, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-590-39500-7

Martin and Shannon (who paired up for The Rough-Face Girl) set an old Hawaiian tale about a shark who saves a family against a backdrop of images of ancient Polynesia. A brother and sister free a shark caught in a net and beat the news of their success out on the king's drum, a violation punishable by death. Answering their parents' pleas for justice, the powerful Shark God destroys the island kingdom with an immense tidal wave, delivering the children and their parents to a new home across the sea. Shannon's sun-drenched tropical landscapes sometimes recall Gauguin's, but his powerful Hawaiian figures, far from standing silently in their tranquil paradise, look ready to burst forth from the spreads. Martin's suitably myth-like prose gives the story appropriate grandeur (" 'Prepare a canoe with all you might need for a journey,' said the Shark God. 'Bring offerings to the temple. Do not fear. I will send a sign' "). Still more remarkable is the attention the book pays to the feathered garments, beautifully woven textiles and elaborate tattoos of old Hawaii. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)