Our Favorite Hawaiian Children's Books to Gift This Year

Posted by Mapuana Andrade on Monday, April 18th, 2022 at 7:14am

Growing up in Hawaii makes for a magical and colorful childhood spent going to the beach with the ohana, learning about the culture, and making every day an adventure. 

Almost as good as living it, we love experiencing this life through authors who use imagination and creativity to bring these stories to life. These stories are meticulously written and delivered in traditional Hawaiian children's books, ranging from well-known mythology across the Pacific Islands to different cultural practices. Here are five of our favorite books that can inspire everyone. 

If you're looking for Hawaiian books to read to your children or if you want to teach your children about Hawaiian culture, this list is for you!

Gabrielle Ahulii's Hawaiian Legends for Little Ones: Naupaka, Hina, Maui Hooks the Islands, and Pele Finds a Home 

Through four of the most famous local tales, this iconic series of books exposes children to the enchantment of Hawaiian traditions and mythology. Pele, the goddess of fire, Maui and his magical fish hook, Hina, the moon goddess, and Naupaka are among the characters. Each story answers keiki's burning questions, such as "How did the Hawaiian Islands come to be?" and "How come the white naupaka blossom appears to be sliced in half?" 

Kimo Armitage's Limu, the Blue Turtle 

Limu, the turtle, gets taunted because he is blue, but it doesn't stop him from taking ocean adventures. Other aquatic wildlife he encounters includes an opihi, colorful reef fish, and a humpback whale found in Hawaiian waters. 

Tammy Paikai's Too Many Mangos 

This book brings back many childhood memories for natives because mango season is such a special time in Hawaii. Everyone on the islands has a relative that grows the tastiest, most delicious mangos on their backyard tree, and everyone excitedly awaits the time when they eventually mature. Paikai's book, which has exquisite artwork by Don Robinson that's nearly as vivid as the mangos themselves conveys the significance of community. 

Lisa Matsumoto's Beyond 'Ohi'a Valley 

This wonderfully illustrated book tells the story of a native Hawaiian tree snail and his battle to live in a forest full of deadly invading species. Unfortunately, native plants and animals in Hawaii face this reality; 74 of the 99 species of Hawaiian tree snails have already been extinct. The narrative has impacted local readers who were taught to malama aina (take care of the land) at an early age.

Ilima Loomis' Ohana Means Family

Ohana Means Family is a children's book about enjoying nature and respecting Hawaiian land, culture, and customs. 

As they harvest taro to produce poi in preparation for a traditional luau event, the tale is recounted in a cumulative format (akin to The House That Jack Built). 

The narrative depicts how the family gathers for meals and celebrations. The author employs a lot of Hawaiian vocabulary, and there's a glossary at the end of the book that explains everything. This is a book that every member of your ohana should read.

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