Chang’s first novel features today’s youth in the ancient culture that will never leave us

Children’s / In an enthralling tale of two sixth-grade cousins who bump into each other on a field trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, illustrator Roy Chang takes the bold step from teaching art and drawing cartoons to crafting a children’s novel packed with adventure, history, legends and modern twists that combine all the elements of a good story with the magic of Hawaii.

Cacy and Kiara, our two heroines in a predominantly-female book, stumble upon an authentic Hawaiian kii (an eight-inch wooden tiki) inside of a lava tube when they get separated from their classmates. They are immediately cursed and must travel to the heiau of Puuhonua o Honaunau before dawn the next day in order to save themselves and all of Hawaii, according to the goddess Hiiaka, who helps them on their journey. At the same time, however, two fearsome thugs want the kii to take back to their leader, the Queen, a collector of original artifacts and treasures. With the thugs on their tails and time winding down, Cacy and Kiara must put aside their differences and work together to escape certain death.

While the novel is steeped in Hawaiian culture, children from all over can enjoy the mythical stories that bring to life ancient beliefs and customs. One adventure in particular, when Cacy and Kiara go to have dinner with the Menehune who saved them from a wild boar, is simply enchanting. The kipuka where they live is described as “an eclectic mixture of campsite, junkyard, ancient Hawaiian village, and theme park,” the perfect imagery for something magical.

Though a bit long for a children’s novel (in a 24-hour span, the girls go through trail after tribulation with barely a moment’s rest, which can exhaust the reader), each chapter is peppered with manga-style illustrations that keep the pace moving quickly. And the illustrations are fantastic–Chang’s depictions are exactly what I imagined while reading the preceding pages, only more elaborate.

With humor, noble quests, themes of ‘ohana and perseverance, relatable characters and beautifully imagined scenarios, Chang’s first novel, a decade in the making, is hopefully not his last.

Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Kii

written and illustrated by Roy Chang

(BeachHouse Publishing, 2012)

Paperback, 397 pages, $11.95