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.

Author/Illustrator Interview: Edna Cabcabin Moran, part 2 of 2

Hi there, here’s part 2 of Edna’s interview. You’ll be hungry by the end of it.

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
and friends…

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?

Nathalie, 🙂 These questions are perfect. Mahalo nui loa!

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.

To keep in touch with Edna, visit:
o Edna’s website
o Edna’s blog, Just Sketch