7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #278: Featuring R. Kikuo Johnson

h1 April 29th, 2012 by jules

(Click to enlarge)

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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

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?

19 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #278: Featuring R. Kikuo Johnson”

  1. “misfit children who struggle to find their place in their world” – love that line. I still feel that way sometimes. The wisdom of being a grown up is knowing that we all have our place in the world.


    1. I got a great response to my blog post about the fear of failure that makes me feel like I am on the right track.

    2. Got together with some old college buddies for an Avett Bros. concert.

    3. Saw the Avett Bros. live! http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105637364

    4.Started reading Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

    5.Got a surprise visit from my sister just when I needed it.

    6. Celebrated my father’s birthday with Friendly’s Vienna Mocha Chunk ice cream.

    7. Little League!! My son’s team (the Red Sox) won their first two games.

    Have a great week everyone.

    I am hoping to spend the day cleaning the art studio in preparation of a busy week up there

  2. Jules,

    Happy Sunday!


    1. My granddaughter has reached another milestone. She is now standing.

    2. On Friday evening, I had dinner with Janet Wong and a very-pregnant Grace Lin at Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, MA. We had the most amazing dessert–churros with a bittersweet dipping sauce. SOOOOOO delicious!!!!!

    3. I invented a Poetry Month Martini. I make it with champagne mango puree, vodka, triple sec, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup. It’s yummy. I should call it the “Julia” because my granddaughter LOVES when I puree champagne mangoes and feed them to her for lunch. As I was fixing her lunch last Wednesday, I looked at the puree and got the idea of creating a special cocktail for Poetry Month.

  3. Classic comics in the making! Thanks for this excellent post, and for featuring R. Kikuo Johnson, Jules!

    A few kicks for today:
    1. Attending the Philbrick Poetry Reading at the Athenaeum in Providence (Lucile Burt and Lisa Starr)
    2. Sketching at the RISD Museum with my daughter
    3. Resolving to devote more time to writing and beginning to send work out to publishers in earnest
    4. And finishing this new poem:

    Questions About Invertebrates
    By Steven Withrow

    What god wrought the isopod,
    wanted woodlice walled
    as a conglobated ball,
    an acrobat or armadillo
    vexed in an exoskeletal shell?

    And what god bred the pill bug,
    millipede, for what hell
    freed the cuckoo wasp,
    which too, when prodded,
    whorls its odd, segmented body?

    To hear me read the poem aloud, visit http://cracklesofspeech.blogspot.com/.

    ©2012 by Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

  4. What a fun book. I can’t Keep graphic novels on the shelf.
    JuLes, someday I am coming to Nashville. It’s on my list.
    Moira, love kick number 5.
    My kicks:
    1. Working on my haiku and photographybook redux. Am using createspace.
    2. School play try outs done, we start rehearsing.
    3. Continued responses to the poetry postcard project. Students are beaming.
    4. Sunshine.
    5. Presenting at ‘The Gifts of Women’ at church today.
    6. The Progressive Poem for National Poetry Month.
    7. National Poetry Month.

  5. Elaine, the poetry month martini sounds yummy.
    Steven, I love the first line.

  6. Jone,

    Janet Wong was telling Grace Lin and me about making books using Createspace last Friday. Good luck with your book project!

    I just posted the recipe for my Poetry Month Martini at Wild Rose Reader. Here’s the link:

  7. Steve,

    “3. Resolving to devote more time to writing and beginning to send work out to publishers in earnest.”

    That’s something that I need to do too.

  8. Good morning, Imps!

    R. Kikuo Johnson: Thank you for sharing your story and your artwork with us. Three cheers for characters (especially real folks!) who are clever, brave, and daring – especially those that find joy in the world and laugh often!

    Jules: Now I’m singing pirate king lyrics from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance and picturing it with sharks. 🙂 That picture of The Lumineers is lovely-old-fashioned.

    My kicks for the past week include:
    1) Audition for theatre
    2) Audition for webseries
    3) Script for next project
    4) Staged readings
    5) Improv
    6) Submitted original script
    7) Filming today!

    Moira: How sweet of your sister to visit! Congrats to your son and his team! Keep on keeping on.

    Elaine M.: Thumbs-up to your increasingly mobile granddaughter.

    Steven: Sounds like a fun week of art and writing.

    Jone: Yay for sunshine! Yay for rehearsals! Enjoy the poetry.

  9. Hi all!

    That Shark King story and R. Kikuo Johnson’s presentation of it deserve to be big hits. (Little Willow’s reasons are mine, too.)

    (The image of the moment right after the Shark King dives back into the water as lightning plays all around him, and up on the cliff we see Nanaue’s mother — waving what may or may not be a shredded garment (!) — made me think of the moment in Young Frankenstein when the monster (Peter Boyle) gets up and wanders off in pursuit of the violin music after ravishing Madeleine Kahn. She calls to him something like “Wait — wait! Where are you going!? Oh, that’s just like a man… I think I love him!”)

    Jules: I sometimes think your music-related kicks are the purest expression of what I like about 7-Imp. Then I read one in which you also manage to fold in something about your youngsters and have to reassess that narrow-minded view.

    Friendly’s, Moira!?! I thought they’d gone out of business — you mean they’re still around somewhere in the world? Yay!

    Elaine, took me a couple reads of your comment to understand that you weren’t feeding booze to your granddaughter. Whew. (Now I need a drink myself…) A Poetry Month Martini would be a perfect tropical breakfast cocktail!

    Steven, I really really need to get serious about keeping stuff circulating, too. Hope your mentioning it here becomes the prod I need. (As opposed to making me curl up into a ball, like one of your invertebrates.)

    jone — thanks for mentioning CreateSpace… I hadn’t heard of it before.

    LW: a nonstop whirlwind, you are. The sequencing isn’t normal, but your 7 kicks trace the life cycle of a complete media project, from making up the words, through formal scripting, on into tryouts on stage and Web, and finally to film. Zowie!

    Kicks here:

    1. We spent two nights in Miami this week — my first trip there. Didn’t see much of it (a business trip for The Missus), but it was cool to be someplace new and at least hypothetically exotic.
    2. The occasion for the Miami trip was a benefit fundraiser for this organization (where The Missus works). A lot of tragic, outrageous, but also inspiring stories.
    3. When we got back last night (after a 12-hour drive home), we were SO looking forward to just zoning out in front of the TV. Which… wasn’t working. Required just changing a projection lamp, though, an event which I’d prepared for years ago. (It did take me an hour to find the spare lamp.) Made me feel both manly and forward-thinking, two tingly sensations with which I’m generally unfamiliar.
    4. Looking forward to resuming something like a normal online rhythm and life, after weeks of playing catch-as-catch-can.
    5. Patty Griffin. Also Patty Larkin, while I’m at it. (And, since I mentioned Friendly’s, I should also throw in a plug for patty melts.)
    6. Geek thrills: preparing to upgrade my computer’s operating system for the first time in several years.
    7. While looking around for the exact wording of the Young Frankenstein scene I mentioned above, I came across this great list of “best unscripted movie moments.” A lot of grins and unexpected trivia therein. (Caveat: no idea how authoritative it is.)

    Have a great week, everyone!

  10. the shark king is on my list for me this week! i had it set aside but its moving up now.

    some kicks, not quite 7…

    the most awesome lobster pasta at a friend’s birthday dinner

    a couple good hours of writing

    getting paid a little money to help out a friend. not a job, but not NOT a job

    finally getting my running speed and distance up to where it was before i had pneumonia in january

    and that’s about it. one of these days (weeks) the kicks are gonna bust super-awesome, but for now it’s the little things.

  11. SHARK KING: Love that serpentine trail of fish bones leading to the BURP. And that boy’s genetic sharkiness gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “back teeth”.

    Jules – I’m still high on Lumineers’ video from last week with the creative dimmer-switch accompaniment. woo-oo. And your Gasp! about ‘Abby Road forgotten’ made me laugh. A son of mine will sometimes mention “But, I’ve never seen Sound of Music.” which I react to with that parental Gasp! …and an immediate required-viewing session. Ha!

    Mornin’ kickers.

    Moira – Go Little League! I so miss those weekends cheering in the stands.

    Elaine – I’m gonna try your martini recipe. (thanks) Like JES I was confused about key ingredient and alcoholic intake of your granddaughter but wikipedia set me straight.

    Steven – “What god wrought the isopod,” stopped me in my tracks. Pill bugs rule!

    Jone – ditto appreciation for createspace mention. I envy your pending play rehearsals.

    LW – Break a leg!

    JES – loved your ravished references. ha! And I too am craving a return to normal writing/commenting rhythms – only that goal seems like tail lights fast out-distancing me down the interstate. Plug on, I guess. The unscripted list had some good ones: SPINAL TAP “These go to eleven.” Dr. Strangelove, Pres. phone call, “Hello Dimitri…”

    David – liked “not NOT a job.” I get it.

    My kicks:

    1) winning boxing match against difficult chapter (in round 9).

    2) watching son throw shotput at district finals (finished 2nd! Off to CIF he goes.)

    3) cleaned/organized a layer or two off my office work spaces (not down to actual surface yet… but entropy is worried.)

    4) breakfast smoothy (or last-day-to-save overripe fruit.) Mmm!

    5) character Mr. Bobo (Darwin’s chimpanzee butler) in Wallace & Grommit’s PIRATES.

    6) totally hooked on SMASH; (like GLEE for grown-ups.) Man, those gals can sing. And choreography/dancers good too. Uma Thurman is having some childish-diva fun.

    7) Reading boy books at moment: “Dead-in in Norvelt” is by my bed, “Hatchet” in my car.

    Have a great week everyone.

  12. Yesterday I got to give a little speech to the winners of the OH branch of the Letters on Literature contest, where kids write to authors who have made a difference in their lives. Laurie Halse Anderson, Sharon Draper, Suzanne Collins–yes and hooray, but ALSO Emily Dickinson, Malcolm X, and Isaac Asimov. Beaming parents, book loving kids and did I mention cake? Heaven.

  13. Moira, I love the illustration that goes along with your failure post! Also, one day I wanna see The Avett Brothers live. I so very much do. … Happy birthday to your father! What a good week you had.

    Elaine, OH MY GOODNESS I love that you created this drink. I can’t wait to go see the recipe. Thanks for sharing. I concur it should be called The Julia. (And she’s standing. WOOT!)

    Steven, best of luck with sending out your manuscripts/writing!

    Jone, oh please do come visit me when you’re here! My poem is on my refrigerator, and it makes me smile every time I see it. (And I re-read it every time I do.)

    Little Willow, break a leg on your auditions! Also, improv would terrify me, but I bet you rock at at it. Also: What John Said about your kicks. Wow.

    John: Your wife’s work must be rewarding. Also, kick #3 made me laugh outloud. Also, I LOVE BOTH THOSE PATTYs (the musicians, that is). I have a bunch of old Patty Larkin CDs, and I think I’ve seen Patty Griffin live more than any other musician. And, ooh, what a fun link you found, John, and I hope the one about The Shining is true.

    David, it’s always the little things, I think. Also, I didn’t know you had pneumonia. Glad you’re healthy now. And up and at ’em.

    Denise, “these go to eleven” was unscripted? I missed that. WHOA. That is serious news to this Spinal Tap geek. …. How much do I love “entropy is worried”? … And, o! I wanna see Pirates. Do you highly recommend it? (Nick Park rarely ever takes missteps in his film-making, now does he.)

    Tricia: That is a most wonderful kick, indeed. Wow just wow.

  14. Do you know how Candlewick came to be involved with Toon books? Glad to see a post with this particular book – I saw it a while back on drawn.ca and was impressed then too!

    I also have no idea how your blog readers have so much time to write such thoughtful responses! Perhaps when our two year old is a bit older I will be able to remember seven things I did over the course of one week!

  15. Aaron, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I could always ask!

    I owe you an email, but like you, life got busy and I am, once again, behind on my correspondence. But I’ll get back to you soon. Hope your week was good, even if you don’t have time for seven separate kicky things. (Hope you at least had some kicks.)

  16. Hi Imps and Everyone!
    First – the Shark King – groovy – I really liked everything about this. I just read a toon book published by a friend of mine, and couldn’t understand 1/2 of it! I was trying to decide if it was me getting old or that it had problems. But I’m going to try again as this looks so fun and so great. Plus I grew up on comics in India so here I go…

    what great kicks and poems and links. Too much for me to read tonight at 11pm PDT, but I will tomorrow.

    1. US SCBWI national conference is here in LA in August!!!! I’m late checking this out, but I’m beside myself. And my hubby didn’t blink an eye when I told him the cost (yay!) AND its on my birthday weekend!

    2. Repeated readings of Pete Seeger’s ‘Abyiyoyo’ with my almost 6-year old, repeated singing of the song, and repeated watching old Reading Rainbow episodes with Pete Seeger narrating the book.

    3. Getting a MacBook Air (can hardly believe it!) tomorrow – partial payment for editing a book for a very sweet author. I’ve been a IBM compat. person all my adult life including when I did tech support, so I’m beyond excited about the generosity and the new technology in 5 lbs.

    4. Had the pants almost charmed off me by a picture book biography of Audrey Hephurn at my local children’s bookstore: Children’s Book World. I bought it as a present for a classmate of my little, but now I want one for myself in the worst way! Just Being Audrey Margaret Cardillo (Author), Julia Denos (Illustrator)

    5. Finally got a post onto my blog after almost a month – I’m determined to get back on track this week after not writing for a month.

    Lovely doing my bedtime reading with you all!
    Night-y Night!!!!

  17. Allison: Good luck with that Mac, and congrats on kick #1! Love Julia Denos’s work.

  18. Thanks for the reply, Jules. I was going to boldly write and ask you what you think of her work! I bought a 2nd book for this little girl which I just noticed is ALSO illustrated by Julia Denos: I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn which just tickles me from start to finish. I can’t wait to look at more work.

  19. Allison, Denos visited the blog in 2010, FYI: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1991

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