In the Summer of 2011, I wrote at Kirkus about TOON Books. Today’s post is about a new TOON title, R. Kikuo Johnson’s The Shark King, so if you’re thinking, TOON hubba WHAT? and what is Jules going on about NOW?, then you can head on over to that Kirkus column to get the low-down on this imprint.
And I like this new title. I do. You won’t see anything else like it this year.
Graphic novelist R. Kikuo Johnson grew up in Hawaii on the island of Maui, according to his bio. Evidently, native Hawaiians tell stories of a shape-shifting shark god, named Kamohoalii. This new TOON comic, The Shark King, is Johnson’s version of one of those stories involving the shark god’s son, Nanaue.
And I don’t want to give away the entire story, but I’ll say that it involves the shark god himself, of course (in this case, he’s called a shark king). His young son, Nanaue, doesn’t know who his father is until the story’s close; the shark god leaves his human wife the night before their child is born, right as she discovers he’s the shark king. And Nanaue is born with a sharp-toothed shark’s mouth on his back (snap, snap), as you can see below. Needless to say, this makes it difficult for him to make friends. Nanaue is clever, a bit mischievous, and brave. When he is run out of his own village, he need not worry, given his god for a father had planned for such an event. And for his security.
Johnson’s ink drawings (colored digitally) are bright, dramatic, and action-packed, as you can see by the art featured here today. His depictions of the beautiful shores of Hawaii are a sight to see. This is a most unusual adventure that will have children hook, line, and sinker (excuse the awful pun) on page one, especially those misfit children who struggle to find their place in their world, as Nanaue does. And, since it’s a TOON reader for “advanced beginners” (level three), it’s divided into chapters and provides longer sentences than their comics aimed at brand-new or emerging readers. (And fear not, Johnson even tells those beginning readers how to pronounce “Nanaue.”)
(I know little about the original tale, but according to Kirkus, it’s a “myth involving rampant anthropophagy” with a deadly son and has received a much gentler treatment here in Johnson’s version.)
Here are some illustrations. Enjoy.
THE SHARK KING. Copyright © by 2012 by R. Kikuo Johnson. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher, TOON Books/RAW Junior, LLC, an imprint of Candlewick Press.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
I think kicks one to seven could easily be that on Friday night I saw The Lumineers in a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bar in Nashville, and it was one of the most fun live shows I’ve ever been to.
For the love of all things special forever, if they’re ever in your town and you want to hear some fabulous, hand-clappin’, foot-stompin’, woo-oo, happy sing-along tunes, go hear ’em.
(But the other kick was reminding my girls this week of the sheer awesomeness of the sixteen-minute closing medley of Abbey Road, which I used to play for them when they were little but which THEY HAD FORGOTTEN. Gasp! You can see why I had to quickly remedy that.)
What are YOUR kicks this week?