Hoʻonani deserves a place on any shelf.

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HO‘ONANI

HULA WARRIOR

In this picture book based on a true story, a nonbinary youth finds her place as a hula warrior.

Hoʻonani Kamai doesn’t identify with either wahine (girl) or kāne (boy); “she prefer[s] just Hoʻonani.” (Feminine pronouns refer to Hoʻonani throughout.) One day, her teacher Kumu Hina announces auditions for a traditional hula chant the high school kāne will perform. With Kumu Hina’s encouragement, Hoʻonani auditions despite the shock of the kāne. After passing the test, she practices “until Hawai‘i’s history [becomes] a part of her.” Practice pays off, as her chant’s strength and power gain her true acceptance as their leader. Kumu Hina warns that people may get upset that a wahine is leading, but Hoʻonani faces the performance with courage. Through every challenge and doubt, Hoʻonani “[holds] her place. Strong, sure, and steady.” Her strength and bravery lead her to find her place as a hula warrior. Based on the documentary A Place in the Middle, this story brings to light the Hawaiian tradition of valuing those who are māhū, or nonbinary. Teacher and activist Kumu Hina creates a place of safety and acceptance, encouraging her students to treat others with respect. Hoʻonani’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.

Hoʻonani deserves a place on any shelf. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6449-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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