Picture Book Review: Honu and Moa, by Edna Cabcabin Moran

Favorite Quote
“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.

Honu and Moa, written and illustrated by Edna Cabcacbin Moran

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)

Photo courtesy of Edna Cabcabin Moran

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.

Children’s Book Review: Biddy Mason Speaks Up

Multiculturalism Rocks! Children’s Book Review: Biddy Mason Speaks Up
Author: Arisa White and Laura Atkins
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publisher: Heyday
Age Range: 10 and up

I am both thrilled and honored to review this week’s book selection, Biddy Mason
Speaks Up. Part of the Fighting for Justice series spear-headed by Atkins for
Heyday Books, she and White have a shining achievement in capturing the trials
and triumphs of one of California’s first civil rights activist, Bridget “Biddy” Mason.
The story starts with Biddy as a young girl foraging through the woods with Granny 
Ellen; the woman who has become a mother figure since Biddy was sold into
slavery and away from her mother as a baby. Granny Ellen is teaching Biddy about
herbs, a skill that will become of much use to Biddy throughout her life.

"Even though Granny isn't allowed to read or write, she knows how to read plants."
It is this knowledge of medicinal plants and midwifery that is the beginning 
stages of Biddy understanding the importance of helping people; even when you
don’t have much yourself. She further learns about community when her master
forces her and her girls to walk from Mississippi to Great Salt Lake, Utah, and then
to San Bernadino, California. Unlike the most of the country at this time,
California had been declared a free state. It's here she would meet a freed black
family, the Owens, who would orchestrate the freedom of Biddy and her two girls
when her master tries to move them to Texas.
 
“There will be a trial. Robert Smith is accused of taking Biddy, Hannah, and their
children by force from California.”
When her lawyer doesn’t appear for trial, Mason is given the rare opportunity to 
speak for herself in the judge’s chambers. It is through her own words that she and
her family are granted freedom.  
 
Mason would go on to become a powerful force in the development of the city of
Los Angeles. Through her philanthropy, she would also become the richest woman
– woman, not Black woman – in the city. All of these accomplishments would stem
from this belief that Granny Ellen had taught her as a child:
 
“If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is
blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.” – Biddy Mason
This book is an incredible accomplishment for White and Atkins, which is evident 
in the pages that are thoughtfully filled with historical information, definitions and
timelines relevant to both Mason’s life and injustices throughout the United
States during her time. White also does an exemplary job of telling Mason’s story
through rich and sobering prose – and responsibly touches on themes of sexual
assault and violence against women. And Freeman's lush illustrations illuminate 
Biddy's warmth and bravery.
Biddy Mason Speaks Up is perfect for: 
The future activist
The future medical practitioner
The future philanthropist
The future historian


Learn More:
Arisa White
Laura Atkins
Laura Freeman
New York Times California Today Article
 
Where to Buy:
Heyday Books