Activity for ‘The Shark God’

The Shark God

by Rafe Martin

Described as “ …a thrilling suspense story, a powerful morality tale and a gorgeous glimpse of a beautiful land…”, The Shark God tells the story of two young Hawaiian children, who are sentenced to death by the king when they are caught playing with his kapu (sacred) drum. In desperation, their parents go to the fearsome shark god, Kauhuhu. Although terrified of Kauhuhu, they ask for his help and he agrees, sending a huge storm to the island of Hawaii which frees the children. A gripping tale, which has been dramatically illustrated using watercolour images.

This book was nominated because of the shark god’s importance for a lot of Pacific people, as well as its attractive illustrations.

Activity: ILLUSTRATION (The Arts)

Curriculum Level 1, 2 & 3 (see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • relating to others
  • managing self


 The Shark God in this story is fearsome and terrifying and has been brilliantly represented in the illustrations by David Shannon. In this activity, students create their own images of what the Shark God might look like in their imaginations.

1. Read the story, without showing any illustrations, up to the part where the parents enter the Shark God’s cave:“ Green waves rolled seething into the cavern, where seaweed lay tangled on the black lava rocks. The salt smell of the sea was strong. As they entered, fear rose like a wave and washed over them.”

2. Stop at this point. With a buddy, ask students to talk about what they think the Shark God might look like. They may like to sketch their ideas on a piece of paper.

Ask: what do we know about the Shark God? What clues are in the text?

He is fearsome – no one has ever gone willingly to him before.

 3. Share some ideas as a class, and ask children to explain why they have chosen to draw the Shark God as such.

4. Individually, or in the same pairs, students can go away and begin sketching their final illustration of the Shark God. Use water colour or acrylic paint, pastel or crayons to add colour.

5. Share finished illustrations before re-reading the story from the beginning, this time showing illustrations and reading to the end.


  • paint, crayon or pastels
  • pencils for sketching
  • lots of scrap paper, as well as good quality paper for final product
  • brushes

Curriculum Links

The ArtsVisual Art

  • share ideas about how and why their own and others’ works are made, and their purpose, value and context (Level 1 & 2)
  • explore a variety of materials and tools and discover elements and selected principles (Level 1 & 2)
  • investigate visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, observation and imagination (Level 1)
  • share the ideas, feelings, and stories communicated by their own and others’ objects and images (Level 1 & 2)
  • investigate and develop visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, observation and imagination (Level 2)
  • explore some art-making conventions, applying knowledge of elements and selected principles through the use of materials and processes (Level 3)
  • develop and revisit visual ideas, in response to a variety of motivations, observation, and imagination, supported by the study of artists works (Level 3)
  • describe the ideas that their own and others’ objects and images communicate (Level 3)


Other Ideas

  • Choose a part of the story to illustrate. Use David Shannon’s style as inspiration (Level 3), or use other techniques learned in class (Visual Art)
  • Retell the story using Drama (Drama)
  • Create another “animal god” to write a story about (English)