One of the latest books you illustrated, Can You Catch a Coqui Frog, published in 2009 by BeachHouse Publishing, takes the readers on
a discovery journey of the animal kingdom in Hawai’i; it is also a tale about family
The Coqui Frog book is a light rhyming picture book that introduces the animals of Hawai’i. When I read the manuscript, I envisioned a secondary story featuring children from different places around the island, having a connection of sorts with the animals
highlighted in the book. I also wanted the page spreads to share something special
about the animals in their habitat.
I found this book tricky to illustrate because the animals ranged in size from the wee little happy-face spider to the large, very rotund monk seal. I wondered how to give each animal its due attention plus keep the “wordless” tale going. I was able to ﬁnd a happy solution with the creation and use of “borders” for each two-page spread.
On your path to publication and as a multicultural author/illustrator, what is the
most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
I’ve learned a number of lessons but here’s a key one: Do your homework about the culture or tradition. There are reasons why stories are told a certain way. Take the time to ﬁnd out why. When I ﬁrst started my research for The Sleeping Giant, I came across many different versions. I wore the hat of a sleuth, half the time, at the beginning as I tried to uncover as much as I could about the story’s origins. It was an enriching experience that led me to many wonderful sources such as the Kupuna (elder) storytelling program in Kapa’a, Kaua’i. Also, a good retelling does not imitate another’s voice or copy a tale verbatim. I liken it to sculpting with clay–massaging tale and shaping it with your own touch. So, develop a solid perspective and write in your own voice.
Are there any resources you would recommend to writers and/or illustrators
working on multicultural stories?
The public library is full of excellent multicultural books and folk tales. Also, check out: Tarie Sabido‘s multicultural literature blog, Into The Wardrobe, articles on writing multicultural stories by award-winning PB author Aaron Shepherd; and Papertigers.org which introduces and reviews multicultural kid lit.
What are your current projects?
I’ve several illustration assignments in other book genres, a couple of illos and book dummies for several PB’s (not yet contracted) and WIP’s for a number of stories and poems.
You are in Kaua’i with three of your favorite writers or illustrators. Who are they and where do you take them?
This is a difﬁcult question to answer as I have many, many favorites! Off the top of my
head, I’d love to spend a day with Maurice Sendak (he’s the reason I fell in love with
picture books), Naomi Shihab Nye (her words are paintings) and Yuyi Morales (her
paintings are poetic).
I’d take them on a hike into the forests of Mt. Wai’ale’ale where
we would listen and look for the native ‘i’iwi bird, explore the plants and enjoy a picnic
lunch. Next, we’ll break out our sketch books and draw and paint whatever we wanted.
Then we’ll talk story for a while–but they’d do most of the talking because I’d love to
hear about their writing and illustrating adventures.
Any Hawaiian dish and drink you’d recommend? 🙂
A must is fresh poi~just scoop it up with your ﬁngers! 🙂 I really like it with lomi lomi
salmon (a ﬁsh salsa type of dish). Another favorite is Chicken Lau Lau which is
prepared with butterﬁsh and chicken, wrapped with ti or taro leaves and steam cooked
to perfection. Yum. I’m getting hungry just answering your question. As for a drink… try
drinking the water straight out of a coconut. It’s very refreshing and delicious.
Last but not least, is there any question you wish I had asked?
Edna, thank you again for your time and for sharing your experience with us. I wish you the best in your current projects, and look forward to your next books.