Friday, August 3, 2012

Punia and the King of the Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Felipe Davalos (1997)

Wardlaw's rendition of this tale from Hawaiian folklore is one of my favorite read alouds for storytimes.  The story is exciting - kids love stories about tricky kids.  The sharks are fun too - the King of the Sharks is all bad ass at the beginning until he gets beached, and then cries for help.  Another thing that kids like hearing about - how the mighty have fallen.  Word of warning - practice makes perfect when reading those Hawaiian words and names; I stumbled over the Hawaiian word for surfboard.

Punia is a trickster character.  It's interesting that this is referred to as "folklore" when its closer to mythology.  Although Wardlaw's book doesn't state this, the (little) research I did seemed to imply that Punia is the son of Hina, the moon goddess (and sunrise and sunset goddess) and Magna Mater of Polynesian mythology.  

I vaguely remember (a common phrase in my blog) reading about Maui, the demi-god of the Pacific, whose exploits sound much like Punia's.  I wonder if they are one in the same, or if Maui is Punia's father.  Wikipedia says that Maui is married to Hina which would make him Punia's father.  


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Really great, exciting read aloud.  Bright, clear pictures make it great classroom and library fare.  Punia is a trickster character from Hawaiian mythology/folklore (from what I can tell, his mother is Hina, the Magna Mater goddess of Polynesian culture).  Kids love hearing about other kids who trick "grown ups" (in this case, the King of the Sharks).  The King also gets knocked down a peg at the end.  If someone is looking for a nontraditional story about bullies, Punia is a good example of using your smarts to defeat a bully.  Word of warning - practice makes perfect when reading those Hawaiian words and names. 



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