Punia and the King of Sharks

PZ 8.1 .W215 PZ is Fiction and juvenile belles lettres, 8.1 is Folklore, legends, romance.  The legend of Punia is a Hawaiian folktale.

Adapted by: Lee Wardlaw, Pictures by: Felipe Davalos
0803716826 ISBN-13: 978-0803716827
City and Publisher: New York: Dial
Copyright Date: 1997
Author’s Website: http://www.leewardlaw.com/

Reader’s Annotation: Although the fearsome king of the sharks guards the cove, if Punia is clever he can trick the shark king and get food for his family.  If he is very clever, he can trick the shark  more than once!

Plot Summary: Punia’s father was killed by the king of the sharks, who guards the lobster cove with his shark subjects.  Punia and his mother have nothing to eat except yams and poi until Punia thinks up a clever trick and steals a lobster.  Punia continues to match wits with the shark king, until eventually one of them triumphs.

Critical Evaluation: Punia’s story is a tale of danger, daring, and cleverness.  Wardlaw employs a classic repetitive story telling structure which allows the plot to unfold with just the right amount of uncertainty.  Wardlaw incorporates the Hawaiian language in a way that is non-intrusive but still instructional.

Illustrations: Davalos’ colorful drawings illuminate a time long past which is both unusual and familiar.  While I can take or leave the depictions of Punia and the other humans, I love Davalos’ sharks, which expertly skate the line between cartoon and menace.

Reading Level/Interest: 5 & up.
Curriculum Ties: Folklore, sharks and ocean creatures.
Booktalking Ideas: A short excerpt of a play of the Punia story is available online here: http://www.itme.info/punia.htm.  Have students read the parts in this play, which reveals back story.  Hawaiian music, food, and/or flowers might also serve to draw people into the story.  Alternatively, a discussion of sharks might be a great segue into this story.

Genre: Folktales/Fiction
Animals included:

Challenge Issues: Punia’s father was killed by a shark, which may be a little darker than some parents would prefer for their children.  Punia also wears very little clothing.

About the Author: Wardlaw graduated from Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Education and taught school for five years before becoming a full time author.  She has written 25 books for children, including 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher and 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents.  More info at http://www.leewardlaw.com/author.htm


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