cover image Punia and the King of Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale

Punia and the King of Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale

Lee Wardlaw. Dial Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1682-7

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.)