One Shark, No Swim by Lehua Parker transports readers into a world of magical realism set in modern Hawaii. Use these questions to lead your reading group in discussing the book’s themes and characters.

Spoiler Warning: These questions may reveal important details about the story. Be sure to finish the book before reading on.

Discussion Guide


 1.      Describe Uncle Kahana’s relationship with ‘Ilima. How does ‘Ilima let Uncle Kahana know what she’s thinking and feeling? How long do you think they’ve been together?

2.      Char Siu faces pressure from her friends to dress and act a certain way. Do you think she wants to do all the things her friends do? Why or why not? Have your friends ever wanted you to be more like someone else? What did you do?

3.      If Uncle Kahana owns the store and is not really a broke ‘okole old man, why do you think he hides behind Hari?

4.      Uncle Kahana teaches Jay, Char Siu, and Zader about run-fu, which is running away and avoiding confrontation when possible. Do you agree or disagree with this idea? Have you ever faced a situation in which you thought you had no choice but to fight?

5.      Uncle Kahana begins to train Zader alone and Jay and Char Siu together. What different kinds of things does he teach them? Why do you think Uncle Kahana forbids Jay and Char Siu from teaching Zader what they learn, but Zader can tell them what he learns?

6.      Throughout the story, Kalei watches Zader from afar. Why do you think he’s interested? What catches his attention?

7.      Zader thinks Mr. Halpert is his biological father and Pua is his biological mother. Do you think he’s right? Why or why not?

8.      What do you think happens when Zader jumps into the water at Piko Point?

For more classroom materials and information about Hawaiian culture, history, and island living, please visit

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