Multicultural picture books open the door to learning about unfamiliar perspectives and traditions. This is especially true when the author’s personal experiences and family traditions fuel the story. Loomis’ family has lived in Hawaii for three generations. With this insider’s view, Ilima Loomis has written about Hawaii for more than 18 years. Using her expertise, Loomis effectively introduces young readers to authentic Hawaiian culture in ‘Ohana Means Family.
The poetic verse and cumulative style of The House That Jack Built helps non-readers as well as readers to become active participants in the reading process. While some adults may shy away from read alouds with repetitive structures, Loomis’ creative content, and Kenard Pak’s watercolor pictures diminish normal apprehensions. Pak’s illustrations go hand in hand with the repetitive style. Most readers will see how Loomis’s writing style and Pak’s colorful artwork help to connect different parts of nature.
Decades ago, I attended a commercialized lu’au while visiting Hawaii. At that time, I was unfamiliar with the significance of kalo or taro. Kalo, an indigenous plant root, is the main ingredient in Poi, a traditional Hawaiian food eaten at lu’aus. After reading ‘Ohana Means Family, I can see how a lu’au connects the environment—land, water, and air—with the community.
Sample Excerpt from ‘Ohana Means Family
This excerpt offers an excellent example of Loomis’ creative talents to weave together the connection between the people and the environment.
This is the stream of sunlit gold,
Flooding the land that’s never been sold,
where work the hands so wise and old,
that reach through the water, clear and cold,
into the mud
to pick the kalo
to make the poi,
for our ‘ohana’s lu’au.
Benefits of ‘Ohana Means Family Endnotes
Loomis’ Notes at the conclusion of the book offer additional facts and ties together Hawaiian traditions dating back more than a thousand years. One of the details mentioned in the Notes illustrates the underlying significance of poi. ‘Ohana (family members) put their conflicts aside when poi is present because it is considered disrespectful to quarrel in front of elders. The glossary is another resource. It offers a quick guide to 11 Hawaiian words used throughout the story.
The audience for ‘Ohana Means Family
This picture book is a great choice for families planning a trip to Hawaii. Children wanting to learn about the environment or unique cultures will also enjoy this book. Educators will undoubtedly be thrilled to use the book during a Hawaiian unit or diverse food/culture unit. Multicultural books are always a welcome addition to family and classroom libraries.
A SAMPLING OF MULTICULTURAL PICTURE BOOKS
I received a complimentary copy of ‘Ohana Means Family.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of May This Be the Best Year of Your Life. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She was a licensed Colorado teacher who taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad. Sandra also taught college-level courses at Front Range Community College and the University of Colorado-Boulder. In addition to reviewing books and interviewing authors, Sandra is a freelance lifestyle and travel writer. Many of Sandra’s stories appear on the For Readers page. Additional stories can be read on TheTravelingBornsteins website.