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by Terry CarolanJoanna Carolan illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5230-2
Publisher: Candlewick

Originally published exclusively in Hawaii in 2009, this reissued title is now widely available, just in time for the upcoming electoral race.

In what is more a tribute to the 50th state than to President Obama, the Carolans explore Hawaiian traditions and link them to snippets from the president’s speeches, writings and interviews. Familiar words such as “aloha” and “lei” give room to lesser-known Hawaiian terms like “pono” (fair or just), “ho‘oponopono” (resolving conflict) and “kokua” (help). Written in rhyming couplets, the text attempts to capture the rhythmic rocking of a Hawaiian wave, yet more often than not, it is stilted and awkward. Some couplets appear to be thrown together almost as an afterthought or filler: “Here is where our president went to school. / Studying hard and getting good grades is very cool.” Zunon’s illustrations, saturated with lush greens and deep orange sunsets, lend a comforting warmth to the Hawaiian way of life. Photographs, signposts, newspaper headlines and more give a homey, scrapbook feel.

Hawaiians do—and should—take great pride in their heritage. This attempt to share it with the world, however, seems like it is piggybacking on celebrity and falls flat. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-9)