One Boy, No Water by Lehua Parker transports readers into a world of magical realism set in modern Hawaii. The following questions can be used as group discussion starters or as short answer essay questions to measure reader comprehension and enhance literary analysis skills.

(Chapters and reflection questions are based on the third edition.)


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


Chapter 1: The End of Summer Fun

  1. Why did ‘Ālika throw water on Zader?
  2. Do you think ‘Ālika knew what would happen? Why or why not?
  3. How did ‘Ālika explain Zader’s blisters? Why did they happen?
  4. Have you ever seen someone teased for being different? How do  you think someone being teased feels?

Chapter 2: Talking Story

  1. What were Uncle Kahana an ‘Ilima doing at the beach?
  2. Where did Uncle Kahana, ‘Ilima, and Zader go to talk?
  3. Do you think Jay’s actions made the situation worse or better between Zader and the Blalahs?

Chapter 3: Mano Meal

  1. What was unusual about the shark Kahana sees?
  2. What things does Kahana notice about the baby?
  3. What would you do if you found a baby alone on a reef?

Chapter 4: Yawn

  1. Why does Uncle Kahana think Zader needs to eat?
  2. Who is Aunty Lei?
  3. Does Zader smell like a cookie?

Chapter 5: One Special Kine Stupid

  1. Who is Char Siu?
  2. Why does Char Siu think Lua is for both boys and girls?
  3. What happened to ‘Ālika’s nose?
  4. Is Liz, Jay and Zader’s mother, mad at them for the fight with the Blalahs? Why or why not?

Chapter 6: Dreams and Wishes

  1. What kinds of things is Zader allergic to?
  2. Who is Dream Girl?
  3. Have you ever had a nightmare about a scary person chasing you? If so, how did that make you feel?
  4. Do you think any of the stories Zader tells about his biological parents are true? Why or why not?

Chapter 7: Balance

  1. What is Uncle Kahana trying to teach Jay by making him stand on one foot with a broom?
  2. Nalu refers to acceptance and is compared to ocean waves. In Zader’s life, trouble keeps coming like oceans waves. According to Uncle Kahana, how should Zader deal with his problems?
  3. What’s the secret password?

Chapter 8: Go Pro

  1. Would Liz (Jay and Zader’s Mom) be okay with Jay surfing at Nalupuki? Why or why not?
  2. Why is Zader concerned that Jay wants to become a pro surfer?
  3. What do you think Uncle Kahana can do to help?

Chapter 9: Mary Poppins

  1. Have you ever eaten shave ice or a snow cone? What’s your favorite flavor?
  2. Why does Frankie wipe out on the big wave?
  3. There’s a moment when Zader seems to switch places with Jay. How does that make Zader feel?

Chapter 10: Soaring

  1. Have you ever flown a kite? If you had a stunt kite, what kinds of tricks would you try to do?
  2. Why does Jay tell Mrs. Machado that he can’t sleepover?
  3. Do you think this is the real reason Jay doesn’t go to Frankie’s house? Why or why not?
  4. What does this chapter tell you about Jay and Zader’s relationship?

Chapter 11: On the Rocks

  1. What’s different about this dream than other dreams Zader has had about Dream Girl?
  2. Who do you think Pua might be?
  3. Who do you think Kalei might be?
  4. What does Zader wake up holding in his hand?

Chapter 12: Scavenger Hunt

  1. Jay says Zader never gets sick. Why do you think that’s true?
  2. Uncle Kahana asks Zader which is more important: what people think about him or what he can do. If Uncle Kahana asked you this question, how would you answer? Would you stay safe in the house or would you wear funny clothes so you could be outside?
  3. Why do you think Uncle Kahana leaves sprunch and cookies under the bushes?

Chapter 13: Schooled

  1. What would you think if you saw someone dressed like Zader at the beach?
  2. Going out on the reef is scary to Zader. Have you ever been afraid to do something, but did it anyway? What was that like?
  3. Have you ever simply sat and observed something like Zader does on the reef? What did you learn?

Chapter 14: Sea Dreams

  1. What do you think happens between Zader and the octopus?
  2. When Zader approaches Uncle Kahana, it seems like he’s asleep. Is he? Why or why not?
  3. Who is Pohaku and why is Uncle Kahana speaking to him?
  4. Are young things really safe on the reef? Why or why not?

Chapter 15: Green Flash

  1. How does being on the reef make Zader feel?
  2. Are young things really safe on the reef? Why or why not?
  3. Have you ever seen a green flash at sunset?
  4. What do you think Uncle Kahana is trying to teach  Zader when he talks about the green flash?

Chapter 16: Ms. Robinson

  1. Is Jay popular with kids at school? How do you know?
  2. Does Jay ignore Zader at school or does he act like a friend and brother?
  3. Why is it important to Zader and Jay that they get into Ridgemont Academy?

Chapter 17: Run-fu

  1. Why is Uncle Kahana mad at Char Siu, Zader, and Jay?
  2. What do the plants symbolize?
  3. What is Run-Fu and Kill-Fu? Is one better than the other? Why?

Chapter 18: Alien Space Walk

  1. While walking on the reef, Zader sees Kalei. Why is this an important moment in the story?
  2. What does Kalei do when he passes Zader?
  3. What’s the reason ‘Ālika gives for picking on Zader?
  4. How does Jay get involved?

Chapter 19: Jaws Junior

  1. Why is Uncle Kahana upset with Zader?
  2. What does Jay say he saw in the water?
  3. What does Nili-boy say you should do if you see a shark?
  4. Why do you think the two sharks were heading toward Piko Point?

Chapter 20: School Daze

  1. Does Zader think he’s a good artist? Why or why not?
  2. Why does Ms. Robinson think Zader’s art is important?

Chapter 21: Shopping List

  1. What kinds of food is Uncle Kahana planning to cook?
  2. Why is Zader skeptical of Uncle Kahana’s story? What do you think is really going on?

Chapter 22: Chicken Katsu

  1. Why is Uncle Kahana concerned that Zader is hungry?
  2. Is there anything unusual about sending Ilima to get the food? Do you think she’s done this before?
  3. Why has Jay stopped surfing?
  4. Why do surfers wear ti leaf leis? Is there something about the ti leaves themselves or is it  the fact that they are woven into leis that protect surfers from sharks?

Chapter 23: Niuhi

  1. What did Uncle Kahana tell Zader about Niuhi?
  2. Do you think sharks are aware of what they bite? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think Uncle Kahana is telling the truth?

Chapter 24: Pupu Platter

  1. What’s Jay doing in the living room?
  2. Why are the girls making leis in the kitchen?
  3. Who does Zader need to talk to?

Chapter 25: The Plan

  1. Does Nili-boy think Uncle Kahana knows a lot about sharks?
  2. Besides wearing a ti leaf lei, what else do surfers do to protect themselves from sharks?
  3. Zader doesn’t have a lot of money, but says he’s willing to exchange work for painting supplies and help. Have you ever done extra work for money or for something special?

Chapter 26: The No Letter Day

  1. Who got accepted into Ridgemont?
  2. How does Zader feel when he learns he is on a waiting list?
  3. What do Char Siu and Jay say when they learn Zader may not go to school with them next year?

Chapter 27: Hohonukai Cousin

  1. Why does Kahana make ‘Ilima stay away from Piko Point?
  2. Pua and her daughter Maka thank Kahana for the fish they think he left for them at Piko Point the day Jay saw the sharks. Did he really leave it for them?
  3. Who do you think Pua and Maka are?
  4. Why does Pua promise to help Jay get over his fear of sharks and his disbelief in the power of ti leaf leis?

Chapter 28: The Theft

  1. Why is Jay unconcerned that someone took his surfboard?
  2. Who really took the surfboard?
  3. Why is Zader pretending to be sick?

Chapter 29: Surf Designs

  1. Why is Rad helping Zader?
  2. What is Zader afraid of?
  3. How does the surfboard turn out?

Chapter 30: Christmas Eve

  1. Why is Liz angry at Uncle Kahana?
  2. What does Zader say in Uncle Kahana’s defense?
  3. How does Liz show she wants peace in the family?

Chapter 31: Red Flags

  1. Why does Jay think all sharks want to eat humans?
  2. What is the difference between Niuhi sharks and other sharks?
  3. What does Lili have to say about sharks?

Chapter 32: Lehua in the Sea

  1. Why does Bobby Nickels tell the fisherman not to use a net at Keikikai beach?
  2. Earlier in the book a shark with part of his tail fin missing is mentioned. Why is this important to the story?
  3. Why did Bobby Nickels go back into the water and pick up all the bits of net from the ocean?

Chapter 33: Traditions

  1. Why did Liz’s mother not pass on the family traditions?
  2. What do ti leaves represent?

Chapter 34 Jay’s Shark Tale

  1. When did Jay become afraid?
  2. Why did Uncle Kahana ask if the big shark was missing part of its tail fin?
  3. Do you think sharks give warnings like bumping a board or do they simply bite? Why?

Chapter 35: Trust

  1. Jay and Zader talk about taking risks. Jay is afraid of getting bit by a shark; Zader is afraid of getting wet. What do they decide to do about their fears?
  2. What do the other kids think of Jay’s surfboard?

Chapter 36: The Curtain Rises

  1. What happened to ‘Ilima on the way back from Respite Beach?
  2. Who do you think is invited to the party at Respite Beach every Christmas Day?

Chapter 37: One Shark, No Bite

  1. What do Nili-boy and Jay do when they see the sharks?
  2. Nili-boy tells Jay not to wave any red flags. What kind of behavior would be like waving a red flag at a shark?
  3. Nili-boy says Niuhi are family. What do you think he means?

Chapter 38: High Noon

  1. Why is Zader all alone without his water protection at Piko Point?
  2. What does ‘Ālika tell Zader he will do every day at school next year?
  3. Previously, when Zader got wet, it really hurt and it made him afraid. While it still hurt, this time Zader reacts differently. Why?

Chapter 28: The Hero Returns

  1. What does Jay want to do when he learns that ‘Ālika punched Zader?
  2. Why do you think Zader sees sparkles and smells sandalwood when he looks at Uncle Kahana and ‘Ilima?
  3. What happened between ‘Ālika and Zader after ‘Ālika first knocked him down?
  4. Why does Zader say he wants Jay and Char Siu to go to Ridgemont Academy next year even though he can’t go?

Chapter 39: Dream Girl

  1. Who does Dream Girl say she is?
  2. Why does she throw a ti leaf lei at Zader?
  3. If Dream Girl is real, how does that affect Zader and the rest of the Niuhi Shark Saga?

Chapter 30: Epilogue

  1. Why didn’t Zader get into Ridgemont originally?
  2. Why does Justin Halpert fight to have Zader accepted into the school?
  3. Who do you think Justin Halpert may be?

One Response to One Boy, No Water:
Reflection & Comprehension by Chapter

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When you're allergic to water,
growing up in Hawaii isn't
always paradise.

With Niuhi sharks,
even out of the water,
you're not safe.

Everything you thought you
knew about Zader is a lie.