Ariki and the Giant Shark
Walker Books, 2018
144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99
Washed up on the shores of Turtle Island in her cradle, no one knows quite where Ariki has come from and the islanders wanted to put her back on the waves, but Arohaka said she was a gift from the ocean and a gift should never be refused. So he becomes her guardian although no matter how long she lives there, she is not accepted as one of them – by the adults or the children.
Protected by her distinctive tattoos which are different from those of the other children, Ariki loves to spend her days in the sea rather than doing chores. An excellent swimmer, her favourite game is to catch the tail of the baby yellow moon sharks and hitch a ride around the lagoon while they are too young to turn and bite her. She is more at home in the sea than on the land, and on the day her life is saved from the jaws of the nihui by a shark bigger than she has ever seen, life changes for her. Struck by drought, the islanders are struggling to find food and when two of the island’s fishermen tell a tale of a large creature that scares the nihui and almost bites their boat in half, leaving behind a tooth bigger than a man’s hand, then fear strikes and the islanders are frightened to go into the sea. They are determined to kill this monster but Ariki, her friend Ipo, Arohaka and the children have other ideas…
This is the first in a new series from zoologist Nicola Davies and as well as being an entertaining read, her knowledge of the ocean, its ways and its creatures gives an added dimension of authenticity. Ariki is a strong, independent feisty heroine who is content with herself despite the ridicule of her peers and her friend Ipo also shows similar resilience as he deals with his own issues. Highly original, well-written and utterly engaging, this is the perfect read for those who are independent readers moving on from beginner novels.