When old Uncle Kahana and his poi dog ‘Ilima find a newborn with a funny birthmark abandoned on a reef in Hawaii, he soon finds out just how special the child is: the boy is allergic to water. One drop on his skin and it’s like water on a white-hot skillet; his allergies also make eating anything raw from the sea or rare meat impossible, which is simply absurd for an island dweller. Strangely, the boy’s peculiar allergies lead Uncle Kahana to believe this child is ‘ohana — family — and doesn’t have to work too hard to convince his niece and her family to adopt and give him a name — Alexander Kanoakai Westin, or “Zader” for short.
If only the rest of Zader’s life were so easy!
On the surface, despite his unusual allergies, Zader is an average 11-year-old boy with typical challenges of fitting in with his peers, getting into a good prep school, and maintaining his relationship with his surfing crazed brother. In reality, Zader is Niuhi, a shark with the ability to turn into a person. As he matures and begins to adapt to his “allergies” in ways that make it easier to live a normal life, Zader’s world begins to turn upside down — he will not only have to come to terms with who he is, but what he is.
What a cool book! One Boy, No Water is a fantastic middle-grade read, the first in the five-book Niuhi Shark series, which boys and girls (and adults) will devour. The story feels so fresh and the setting alluring. Zander and Uncle Kahana are instantly likable and their interactions so endearing.
Most of the dialect in the book is written in Pidgin, a Hawaiian dialect that mashes English and Hawaiian. It’s got a great rhythm and humor to it, which adds to the book’s uniqueness and appeal.