Ariki and the Giant Shark – Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Nicola Kinnear.



Walker Books Australia

July 2018

ISBN: 9781406369793
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $12.99
New Zealand RRP: $14.99

It can be difficult to find fiction that focuses on the Pacific/Polynesian cultures particularly for younger readers but this first book in a new series promises to be rich material for this aspect of HASS as well as being an entertaining mystery/adventure.

Ariki was washed up on the shores of Turtle Island as a baby and has been raised by Arohaka, the village ‘Star Walker’ or wise man. One day Ariki hopes to be his apprentice but fears he is dismissive of her in part of course because she’s a girl.

The ocean is not just Ariki’s playground but also her spiritual home. It is where she feels most alive and is intuitive to the creatures that inhabit the tropical seas around her island home. Lack of rain has meant the island is suffering from a food shortage and when Ariki is out coaxing fish into her canoe one day she encounters a massive shark, one she has never seen before. Unlike the usual nihui sharks often encountered who were quite likely to eat a girl as much as a fish, this giant of the ocean seems to be bonded to Ariki.  But when a giant shark tooth washes up on the beach, the island people’s ineffectual but excitable young Queen rallies the people to kill the intruder, blaming it for the shortage of fish.

It is up to Ariki to save not only the beautiful giant shark but it’s babies and in turn her island people. This she does after uncovering long ago rock paintings which show that this event has happened in the past and persuading her guardian and friends to help her in the rescue.

This is a charming story with plenty of memorable characters, humour and adventure to keep readers entertained throughout. Additionally young people will gain a sense of the island life and culture which although it differs from one locale to another, still has many common threads.

I strongly recommend this either for independent reading or read-aloud for children from around seven years upwards.

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