cover image The Shark King

The Shark King

R. Kikuo Johnson. Candlewick/Toon Books, $12.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-935179-16-0

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.)