Growing Up Hawaiian Style

A capsule review of three new children’s stories

Children’s / There is a plethora of literature available to young children that will never go out of style thanks to pioneers such as Dr. Seuss, but for Hawaii-specific stories, the classics are a little harder to come by. In their attempts at capturing the essence of Hawaii in short picture books, three new tales take very different approaches that sometimes shine and sometimes just flicker.

My favorite, by far, is Hawaii’s Food Trucks on the Go!–a rhyming journey across the island as various food trucks serve their communities. The bright illustrations are very clean and cute, much like the vehicles in the animated film Cars. The descriptions of local foods served everywhere from Chinatown to Kapolei are enough to make my mouth water at every page as happy cars (no humans!) line up for each meal. Simple yet wildly entertaining and creative, this story will one day reach my own children.

Another great story is Maka the Magic Music Maker, which brings us back into Hawaiian villages where people would play ‘ulu maika, eat poi and fish as others sing and play the ‘ukulele. It’s a far reach from what many in Hawaii are used to now, but it transports the reader into a magical little world that we still cherish and identify with. The book comes with an audio CD so that keiki can sing and dance along with Maka, a shy boy who manages to save his sister and village by playing music, but parents, be warned–the song is catchy. Your little ones will be doing the Maka Shaka Shuffle everywhere they go.

The only book that falls a little short is Baby Dinosaur’s Luau in Hawaii. It’s a fun concept–dinosaurs were long gone before the Hawaiian Islands popped up, but what if there were Hawaiian dinos?–that shows a typical Hawaiian celebration with lomi lomi salmon, “glacier ice,” hula, games and family at a first birthday party, but some of the characters’ names are just too much of a stretch. Tutu Hilo-thurium, Cousin ‘Aiea Ankylosaurus, the Kaneohe-composagnathus family and others are difficult for a child to easily read and enjoy. With simpler names and less confusion, this luau would be a hit.

Hawaii’s Food Trucks on the Go!

written by Beth Greenway and illustrated by Jamie Meckel Tablason

(BeachHouse Publishing, 2012)

Hardcover, $12.95

Maka the Magic Music Maker

written by Shannon Scott and illustrated by Holly Braffet

(BeachHouse Publishing, 2012)

Hardcover, $14.95

Baby Dinosaur’s Luau in Hawaii

written by Leslie Ann Hayashi and illustrated by Kathleen Wong Bishop

(Mutual Publishing, 2012)

Hardcover, $14.95