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Blue Skin of the Sea: A Novel in Stories
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Blue Skin of the Sea: A Novel in Stories

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  188 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Sonny Mendoza and his cousin grow up in a Hawaiian fishing village. It is a world of beauty, family, love, and of danger and tragedy. Mendoza men must be brave, but Sonny's courage is different. He can't love and trust the water as the other men in his family do.
Hardcover, 215 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by Delacorte Press (first published 1992)
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Eleven short stories follow Sonny’s life from age six to about 19. In the first, he is just learning to swim (after being called a pantie by his cousin Keo for not yet being able to swim). Through each story there runs a common thread—Sonny’s strange fear of the ocean. He does not understand it, and it bothers him immensely (as his family’s livelihood depends on the water). As he grows, he learns many things about himself, but he learns little about his father, and even less about his mother, wh ...more
The word that comes to mind most when I try to describe this book is "sedate." The tone and the plot are gentle, like floating on the Pacific Ocean on a calm day. So, I wouldn't recommend this book to readers who appreciate thrillers and adventure stories.

Sonny is afraid of the water, and struggles to find his identity where the ocean features strongly in his and the lives of people around him. The author presents a story that urges the readers to go beyond the author's words and think about the
Hey, a book about Hawai'i that's a celebration of the land, not the sea. This isn't the greatest book ever, the most touching, or the most beautifully written, but it is a gentle and honest portrait of childhood - cruelties, contradictions, loyalties, adaptations. Sonny is a normal kid - he's not a prodigy or abuse victim, he doesn't have fourteen siblings or magic powers - and that's nice. His mother's dead and his father is somewhat removed, he's afraid of the water and struggles with racial i ...more
I wasn't really looking forward to this one. I had been putting off reading it (I have to teach it this upcoming year) to the point where it is now late back to the library, but at least until about page 134 (when the story ‘The Boy in the Shadow’ started) I loved it! But then it all got a bit too morose for me.

I’m not a big fan of short stories (with the exception of Anthony Doerr’s collection called ‘The Shell Collector’ – which is a work of art) because as soon as I start to like a character
Blue Skin of the Sea

Reviewed by: Devin Boxey
(Posted to Good Reads)
I have to admit, Graham Salsbury is one of my favorite authors, but I was pretty disappointed when Blue Skin of the Sea turned out to be a downer. Honestly, the only point I got from the book was to tell the story about a young boy’s life that lived in Hawaii. The funny thing is, is that this boy is a fictional character, so no one really cares how he lived because he never did live! Compared to Graham’s other books that were ba
Gerald Kinro
Feb 22, 2012 Gerald Kinro rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All ages, especially young adults
This story is of the coming of age of Sonny Mendoza told in eleven interrelated short stories that span 1955 to 1966, one for each year. Its setting is the then little village of Kailua-Kona located on the Island of Hawaii. Unlike the other men in his family, Sonny has a deeply-rooted fear of the ocean neither he nor others understand. In each episode Sonny grows, confronting each fear, seeing and experiencing tragedy, learning how to drive “Kona-style”, falling in love, standing up against bull ...more
Apr 04, 2008 Tawny rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sabina
Recommended to Tawny by: Dr. Keith Lawrence
Shelves: young-adult
Author: Graham Salisbury
Title: Blue Skin of the Sea
Genre: coming of age novel
Publication Info: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, New York, 1992.
Recommended Age: 12 and older. There are a few spots where language is inappropriate and subject matter is deep, so I would not recommend the book to anyone still in grade school.
Plot Summary: Sonny Mendoza, a white boy living in a Hawaiian fishing village, goes through different experiences which lead him to understand and overcome his fear
Sara Cat
A series of interconnected short stories about a boy coming of age in Hawaii. In and of itself, it was ok, but felt at times disjointed and lacking focus. Hawaii sure seems like a hard place to be, kinda rough, lots of machismo and fighting. I'd definitely look for another book by Salisbury, but wouldn't race to recommend this one. Some of the pieces make nice stand-alones, and in fact I think I did hear about this book when I read one chapter as a selection in a Hawaiian anthology.

Aldrin Cedrick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a collection of short stories that tells the coming of age of Sonny Mendoza. All the stories have their own moral and life lesson that Sonny learns—the character of his uncle, young love, death, etc. All the stories are tied together by one common thread: bits of memories that continue to flash through Sonny’s mind, even though he cannot remember what the event was. In the end Sonny remembers and is able to come of age and decide on the path he wants his destiny to take. The imagery used ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Michelle marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ref-booktalker
Listed as Q4 = Exceptional!, P3 = A booktalk on this title will excite most people’s interest
I read this many years ago and really enjoyed it. I liked the short story format that follow the characters as they grow up. I enjoyed the peek into Hawaiian family life and how people changed over their teen years. I even liked the personal reactions to the big events in the Islands. The stories have a flow that feels like being in Hawaii.
As a teacher, I even used some of the stories to show how other teenagers coped with crises in their lives. This is a wonderful book.
Sonny Mendoza is growing up in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Even though he comes from a fishing family, he fears the deep ocean. His fear doesn't keep him away, but makes him more cautious. Eventually he learns where this fear comes from and comes to terms with it.
Kona, the setting of this "novel in stories", develops into its own character--this book is very much about place and how it shapes us. The stories get better, and I felt more involved with Sonny, as I read on. I look forward to teaching this one, and to visiting Kona.
Laurie Jo
Life as seen through the eyes of a young boy living on the big island of Hawaii with his dad. Easy to read, yet the ideas and thoughts are deep and stay with you. A good read when you have a quiet day or two in front of you.
I really liked this book. Salisbury put me right in Hawaii. I felt all of the characters. Being too short and softening the portrayal of characters at times leaves this book at a four. But definitely worth a read.
This book captures the colors, sounds and feelings of the islands. When I read this novel, I long to be walking along side my grandma in old Hilo bay at the farmer's markets, bartering on mangos and papayas.
A YA book by a well-respected author; coming-of-age tale that takes place in Kona in the 1960s. Very evocative of an earlier era in Hawaii; if you have been to Kona and liked it, you will enjoy this book.
I liked this! Definitely more for high school age, than for middle school. It just sweetly broaches first love and first kiss from a boys' pov, very nice. I love the setting, Hawaii!
Lehua Parker
Wonderful! Salisbury understands Hawaii and knows how to connect with his audience by sharing just the right amount of detail and local culture without overwhelming the story.
Kelsey Dean

Captures the flavor of the big island and the magic of the ocean very nicely. It wasn't the most intense page-turner I have ever read, but I enjoyed it.
It was an interesting book, with many stories put together as one, it didn't really have any sort of main conflict, but many in each chapter.
Betsy Jibson
Collection of short stories with similar characters about growing up in Hawii during the 50's. Easy read, great imagry believable experiences.
I was surprised at how well written this book is. Excellent read for anyone, but I'd specifically recommend it to 11-15 year old boys. If I knew any.
one my favorite books that i had to read for school. mr. clark's english class, 8th grade.
Ryan Adams
One of my favorites as a preteen.
first book I read on the Nook
Delaun PRENTICE marked it as to-read
Sep 30, 2015
Brittany Kendzerski
Brittany Kendzerski marked it as to-read
Sep 28, 2015
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Graham Salisbury comes from a 100-year line of newspapermen, all associated with Hawaii's morning paper, the Honolulu Advertiser. Although a career as a newsman could have been possible, Salisbury chose to imagine rather than report. "I enjoy writing about characters who might have been. To me, exploring fictional themes, situations, and lives is a quietly exhilarating experience. There are times ...more
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