THE SHARK GOD
Illustrated by David Shannon
Arthur A. Levine Books
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Boys especially respond to this story of courage and justice!
A powerful, mysterious, and very beautiful ancient Hawaiian flood-tale of compassion and justice, magnificently (truly!) illustrated by the always astonishing David Shannon.
The Shark God has been “selected to be among the most outstanding books of 2001 in the annual Los Angeles Best Books program, a partnership of the Los Angeles Unified School District Library Services and the Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association.” It was one of the only 4 books selected in Folklore. The selections for the 2001 list were made from a total of 7,023 juvenile titles published in 2001.”
“Based on an ancient legend from Hawaii, this story is sufficiently unfamiliar and suspenseful to have appeal for storytellers and readers alike. The setting is a tropical island ruled by an unfeeling despot; the catalytic characters are a brother and sister who manage to rescue a rope-entangled shark despite the indifference of their neighbors, who are as callous as the king. When in their exuberance the children violate the rules and touch the king’s drum, they are arrested and condemned to death. In exasperation, their parents seek out the shark god, depicted as a monumental man with a tattoo of a shark’s open jaws on his back. Moved by their story, the god engineers the family’s rescue and the destruction of their unworthy neighbors in a stunning cataclysm of wind, waves, and clouds. The figures of the god and the king—particularly the former—are in the tradition of Oceanic art; there are echoes of Gauguin in page composition. Shannon’s dark palette is well suited to the overall tone, lightening effectively as the family sails to a new and more inviting land. The appended author’s note is informative and detailed.... Given the fact that sharks are a source of endless fascination among children, this is a real find for story hours and individual readers as well.” —Horn Book
“The winning partnership that created The Rough-Faced Girl (1992) reunites with this dramatic, beautifully illustrated adaptation of an ancient Hawaiian legend. After rescuing a shark near their tropical island--no thanks to their hard-hearted neighbors--a jubilant brother and sister can’t resist playing the king’s drum--a strictly taboo act, punishable by death. The pitiless king is unrelenting in his sentence, and the children’s parents seek solace from the wise but wrathful Shark God, who destroys the island’s population with a flood reminiscent of Noah’s story, saving only the children and their parents and sending them off to a new life on another island with a kinder king. In text and images, the story creates a potent sense of atmosphere, power, and suspense. Young ones will feel the roaring Shark God’s murky lair, see his “strong, sharp, white teeth,” and sense his ferocious omnipotence, impressively portrayed in vibrant paintings reminiscent of Gauguin and perfectly composed for large groups. In a concluding note, the author describes how he toned down the original for a young audience. Even with his alterations, this powerful tale will rivet children ready for a little terror and some heavy but well-handed morality. Great cover, too.” —Booklist, November 1, 2001: STARRED REVIEW