One Shark, No Swim is the second book in a middle grade series by Hawaiian author Lehua Parker. Continuing the story of Zader, an adopted son with a mysterious origin, Parker hits on themes of adoption and family, bullies, strong mentors, friendship, growing up, cultural heritage, and self-discovery and acceptance.
In the first book of the Niuhi Shark Saga, One Boy, No Water, we meet Zader—Alexander Kaonakai Westin—in the transition between elementary school and junior high school. He deals with bullies and an unusual allergy to water, but through the friendship of his brother Jay, and the mentorship of his Uncle Kahana, Zader embraces his talent for art and begins to see opportunity where before he saw only limitations.
In One Shark, No Swim, Zader’s world becomes more complicated as he matures and begins to piece together his identity. As the series progresses, it becomes more and more important for him to learn of and understand the dangers and gifts of his origins.
I have a few favorite things about this series so far. I love the character Char Sui (Charlotte Suzette), who is the ‘girl’ in the group with Zader and his brother Jay. She brings both the female side of growing up, and a lot of humor to the scenes. I also love the martial arts in the book—as a black belt in traditional karate, I appreciate the training and mentoring of the kids in this story. It’s very well written, realistic dialogue and enough of the lingo to get a true Hawaiian flavor.
I enjoy the themes, and as an adult, I appreciate the adult characters in the story—well developed and relatable. My thirteen-year-old son did a dance when he heard that One Shark, No Swim was being released on September 21, 2013. Tells you something about how middle grade and junior high boys (and their moms) feel about this book!