“Moa was squawkless.”
– Honu and Moa, written and illustratted by Edna Cabcabin Moran.
Oh, the joy of reading a good picture book that takes you down memory lane on a sunny afternoon! Honu and Moa is a “Hawaiiana retelling of Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare, and loosely based on the research of renowned Hawaiian historian Kumu Mary Kawena Pukui, and other scholars whose volumes of myths feature kupua, or other supernatural beings.” (Author’s note). Though the main characters differ in nature, the similarities with the well-known classic jump off the page right away: Moa, the beautiful rooster, is chatty and boastful and slightly greedy, while Honu’s coolness, the sea turtle, is heightened by her calm and wisdom and awesome singing skills (I want to hang out with her!).
The plot centers around a water spring – why does it remind me of humans and current events, of all the still on-going wars that originate from the will to control water sources around the world? Anyways, Honu is chilling after a long swim and takes a sip of water. Moa shows up and claims the springs as his, which of course Honu objects to. The matter will be settled with a race, and the sun will be the referee. We know how the story should end, and the author does not disappoint: Our hope of justice is fulfilled. Edna Cabcabin Moran masterfully immerses us into the Hawaiian culture through the story’s illustrations, the descriptions of the landscape, as well as the native words sprinkled in the conversation between Honu and Moa.
A note on the illustrations
They are digital and a symphony of vibrant colors. I was especially drawn to the expressions of the eyes of both Honu and Moa. See below for my favorite illustration.
Why I recommend this book:
Yes, Honu and Moa is well written and delightfully illustrated, and yes the core of the story is well known by anyone who’s read Aesop’s Tales. That said, what sets Honu and Moa apart is not just its Hawaiian setting, but its ecological message as well. Indeed, despite being at a physiological disadvantage by her slowness compared to Moa’s ability to fly, Honu makes it clear that she is not just racing for herself, but for all the generations after her too. She also reiterates that everyone should have the rights to have access water, and not just one individual and/or his group of people.
Additionally, this title is surprisingly affordable for a hardcover picture book! (Only $12.95 on both Amazon and the publisher’s website)
About the author
Edna Cabcabin Moran spent her youth playing among boulders in Iceland’s tundra, hanging out in a bustling NorCal Navy town, and bicycling daily through the sprawl of Honolulu. She dances with the critically-acclaimed Hālau Hula Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu, under the direction of Kumu Patrick Makuakāne, from whom she received training as ‘Olapa Hula. Many years after earning a B.A. in Studio Art from UH Mānoa, Edna is author and/or illustrator of four books for children including The Sleeping Giant: A Tale from Kauaʻi.
For more information on Edna’s work (and the causes she supports), visit her website, Instagram, Twitter & Facebook pages.
Additional information on the book
Publisher: BeachHouse Publishing – Books for Hawai’i’s Kids
Release date: October 1, 2018.
Age range: 4-8 years old.
Where to buy: Mutual Publishing, Amazon
Topics covered: Hawaiian folktale, Aesop fable, ecology, competition, water.
Disclaimer: Book received from the publisher.
Edited 02/26/2019: Correction on the character’s names.