Sunday, June 3, 2012

Comics Review: R. Kikuo Johnson, The Shark King

Comics have had a deserved reputation as trash for most of their history. The adult-targeted graphic-novel movement of the last 30 years has done a good deal to change that. One hopes children-oriented efforts such as the Toon Books line will do their part as well. The capacity of comics for teaching children reading skills has always been apparent. The goal of the Toon Books line is to give them comics worth learning to read with. R. Kikuo Johnson’s The Shark King, geared for second- and third-graders, succeeds admirably in this regard. The book is a beautifully executed comics dramatization of a Hawaiian folk tale about Nanaue, a young boy born of a shark-god father and a human mother. It tells of his efforts to fit in with people in the fishing community to which his mother belongs, as well as his ultimate embrace of his heritage. Johnson presents the story with humor, a lovely sense of pace, and superb art. He’s a remarkably elegant visual craftsman: the art is complexly conceived, with a fine sense of locale and character, but his sophistication is such that it is readable at a glance. This fun story is also an enjoyable introduction to traditional Hawaiian culture. It's a treat for younger and older readers alike. Click here to learn more about this fine effort.

Reviews of other comics by R. Kikuo Johnson:

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