Friday, July 5, 2019

Review - Ho'onani: Hula Warrior

Ho'onani: Hula Warrior
by Heather Gale
illustrated by Mika Song
Date: 2019
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

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.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a simple narrative (based on a true story) about Ho'onani and her quest to perform in the boys' hula troupe.

I like how the issue of gender is addressed here. Ho'onani really wants to be part of the hula troupe. But it's traditionally only for boys. There's an audition, and she tries out and gets in. As she tells her sister, she feels more male than female. So why shouldn't she be part of the boys' troupe? What I really like is that Ho'onani doesn't really care about the traditional gender rules here; she simply wants to dance in the troupe because it's something she enjoys. Even after her teacher takes her aside and tells her that some parents might not want a girl leading their boys in the hula, she sticks to her convictions. Basically, if they don't like it, that's their problem.

The pictures here aren't really in a style that I like, but they're adequate enough to do the job.

This book is apparently based on a documentary. I wouldn't mind having a look at that, since the picture book format has certain limitations.

Overall, this is a fairly solid non-fiction picture book for kids that talks about a cultural practice that's probably unfamiliar to most people outside of Hawaii. For those interested in books about other cultures, it's worth taking a look.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books (NY) for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.17 out of 5

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