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Stories from Hawaii

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Ho'onani: Hula Warrior
Format: Hardcover
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Hawaiian;
Grade Levels: Preschool; Kindergarten; 1; 2; 3;

An empowering celebration of identity, acceptance and Hawaiian culture based on the true story of a young girl in Hawaiʻi who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school.

Ho'onani feels in-between. She doesn't see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She's happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way.

When Ho'onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho'onani has to try . . .

Based on a true story, Ho'onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is--and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.

Ho'onani's story first appeared in the documentary A Place in the Middle by filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson.

“Boldly outlined watercolor and ink artwork . . . convey visual information with strength that suggests Ho‘onani’s own. And Gale grounds the child’s experience, based on a true story, in Hawaiian traditions, modeling showing ‘every person the same unconditional acceptance and respect’.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Ho'onani’s courage to be true to herself and her place in the middle is empowering. Hawaiian words are intermixed, and Song’s illustrations are full of emotion and determination.” --Kirkus Reviews

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior tells the story of a young gender-nonconforming child who, though she still uses female pronouns, does not wish to be either a girl or a boy. Ho’onani is seen by some as too loud, too brash, too masculine. But when she starts to show an interest in leading a group of students in a hula chant, some don’t believe she can do it because she’s not a boy, not strong enough, not bold enough! Stuck in the middle but not willing to back down, Ho’onani and her teacher, Kumu Hina (“kumu” means teacher), work to build her skills and prepare her to take the tests necessary to show that she is skilled enough to lead. And while her parents and brother are not very surprised at Ho’onani’s determination, Kana, her sister, is less than pleased and stops hanging out with Ho’onani like they used to. But in the end, Ho’onani works hard and continues to buck stereotypes in the process, ultimately bringing her closer to her goal with each passing day, until the moment arrives when she must prove herself in front of the whole community.

This empowering and delightfully engaging picture book is based on the true story of Ho’onani Kamai who was raised in Honolulu and was coached by Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu (shortened in the book to Kumu Hina). An author’s note at the beginning gives a more detailed explanation of the real-life story, some history and a mention of the documentary (A Place in the Middle) which was inspired by Ho’onani and Kumu Hina’s working together.

.... The story is not simply one of strength and overcoming obstacles, but it is also a story about traditions, acceptance, and respect for others. Ho’onani is not simply a determined youngster, but also an individual trying to help others understand that gender stereotypes are harmful and limiting. Gale’s picture book will help young readers and adults better understand a small slice of Hawaiian traditions and nonbinary people, referred to as Mahu, those who embody both feminine and masculine traits.

.... An entertaining, illuminating, and empowering read, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior will make a welcome addition to classrooms, libraries, and story times!” --CM Magazine

Educator Information
Recommended for ages 4-8.

The author thanks Ho'onani Kamia and Kumu Hina on her website for allowing her to write this story.

Additional Information
40 pages | 8.80" x 11.40"

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