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THE SHARK GOD by Rafe Martin Kirkus Star


by Rafe Martin & illustrated by David Shannon

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-590-39500-9
Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

The creators of Rough Face Girl (1992) and The Boy Who Lived With the Seals (1993) belatedly get together for another strongly told, strikingly illustrated folktale. Detailing his own additions in an appended note, Martin reworks an old Hawaiian myth into a story of mercy rewarded. After freeing a trapped shark rather than allow it to be killed, two children celebrate by tapping on the king’s drum, which is forbidden. When the hard-hearted king condemns them to death, their parents pay a call on Kauhuhu, the Shark God, who summons up a great wave that destroys the village, frees the children, and washes the reunited family on its way toward a distant, kinder home. Shannon peoples his island scenes with sturdy, tattooed, mahogany-skinned figures, but Kauhuhu, magnificently huge and ferocious, is by far the most powerful presence here: human in form, but with silver skin, decidedly sharklike features, and an immense toothy mouth tattooed across his shoulder blades. A slight confusion at the end identifies the father as a canoe-builder for the first time calling him by that name, but there’s enough joy, terror, and drama here to captivate any reader or listener. (Picture book/folktale. 7-10)