It just launched Saturday, and I want to be among the first to post a review of this brand spanking new tome! Me first, me first, me me me me mememeeeeee! Heeere goes:
REVIEW: ONE BOY NO WATER
I’m really excited to review the newest release from Jolly Fish Press, One Boy No Water, by Lehua Parker, a.k.a. Auntie Lehua.
Set in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, One Boy No Water tells the story of Zader, a kid who desperately hopes to get into a good private high school so he can stay with his best friend and adopted brother, Jay, but his grades might not merit it. And he doesn’t think he has any special talent to turn the heads of the admissions board.
Zader is a foundling, and he is being raised by a very nice family who treat him like their own, but he has some burning questions about the mystery of his birth. Every year on his birthday a very expensive gift arrives in the mail, and his mother helps him place it in a safe place. He wonders about who sends it and why.
Since his earliest memory, Zader is plagued with dreams of a beautiful girl, Dream Girl, and a man eating shark. Surely the dreams mean something relevant to the mystery of Zader’s origins.
He’s a typical kid—on the inside. Zader would spend a lot more time on the beach with his super-surfer brother if it weren’t for one major obstacle: his skin is allergic to water. In Hawaii. Worse, when water hits his body, his skin bubbles and makes him look monstrous.
This does not make him popular—either with the bullies of the neighborhood or with his potential friends’ parents. Luckily, Jay has his back—but Jay might be gone soon. Zader will either have to learn lua, Hawaiian kung fu from his uncle Kahana, or else he’s going to be mincemeat.
Several things make this book unique. One is the setting. I feel like I’m on a trip to Hawaii. Like I’m on the beach watching the waves roll in; like my hand is in the tide pool; like I’m watching the sunset on the beach, eating the sushi, feeling the vibe. It takes me there. And she handles the Hawaiian superstitions about surfing and sharks very well.
Another is that a lot of Ms. Parker’s story is in Hawaiian pidgin. The semi-foreign language is liberally sprinkled throughout the book, and she teaches a term at the top of each chapter. My favorite is “Sprunch”—the pidgin term for Sprite mixed with Hawaiian Punch. Mmm. I love when I come away from a book feeling smarter!
But it’s more than just the pidgin language that’s well done. The language Auntie Lehua uses is challenging and engaging. She trusts the reader to understand her meaning, to understand her characters, to grasp the nuances. It’s gratifying to read a middle grade book that does this so well. No wonder it’s up for a literary award!
Zader’s character sprinkles gems of wisdom throughout. I love his thought process. It’s good to see a young kid in fiction who isn’t reduced to the sum of his snarky comments.
Best of all is the interaction between Zader and his kindly Uncle. Uncle Kahana seems to know exactly what a boy would need, how to help nurture the boy through the rocky shoals of adolescence. It’s gently done, and I found myself feeling nurtured by him as he helped Zader wrangle his artistic heart into that of an athlete and a fighter. It’s good. Very good.
I found this an enjoyable read, and I am looking forward to the future installments of this Nihui Shark Saga—to discover the mystery of the shark and the Dream Girl and to see how Zader fares in his next chapter of his life.
ONE BIT OF READER ADVICE:
The only thing I’d say to readers who would like to pick up this book is this note—there is a glossary included at the end of the digital version of the book. So if you like to flip back and forth to a glossary, a tangible book copy might be more to your liking, unless you have a super easy page flipper on your e-reader. Plus, on the tangible copy, you can look at the awesome art by Cory Egbert every time you set the book down. It’s ingenious.
I’ll be interviewing her on this blog soon, so, yeah. Look forward to that!
One Boy No Water by Lehua Parker is available on Barnes and Noble dot com and at their brick and mortar stores, as well as on Amazon. It’s also available as an ebook.