BOOKS

Cover of Ho’onani Hula Warrior
Ho’onani Hula Warrior
Heather Gale, illustrated by Mike Song. Tundra Books, 2020. 40 pages, $21.99.
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Reviewed by Angelique Thompson

Ho’onani Hula Warrior is an inspirational tale of perseverance that highlights Hawaiian culture and traditions. Ho’onani did not view herself as wahine, girl, or k¯ane, boy, but she was determined to share her talents and interests with others. Her parents provided Ho’onani with the space to be who she wanted to be but her own sister Kana was not accepting of Ho’onani and the choices she made. One day, Ho’onani learned that auditions would be held to create an all-boys hula troupe in her community. Through diligent practice and commitment Ho’onani was not only selected as a member but chosen to lead. On the day of the performance, she led her troupe with strength and determination. Met with the roar of applause as she finished her performance, Ho’onani scanned the crowd and found her sister Kana cheering and beaming with pride. She finally felt accepted and she had found her place as a hula warrior. 

This empowering story can be used in Kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms. It provides opportunities for educators to engage in discussions that challenge gender roles and stereotypes. The story makes strong connections to the Kindergarten conceptual understanding that “everyone has the right to feel safe, comfortable, and accepted.” The text also makes strong connections to the Grade 1 social studies topic of Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities as well as the Grade 2 curriculum topics of Changing Family and Community Traditions and Global Communities. As readers learn more about Ho’onani’s journey and participation in a traditional art form, it provides opportunities for educators to make connections to the dance curriculum as learners explore this form and its cultural context.

The book is based on the documentary “A Place in the Middle” and the author provides notes in the front of the book around the characters, their lives and the story’s connection to Hawaiian culture and ideas. The documentary provides great opportunities to expand upon the ideas in the text and offer further learning opportunities to children beyond Grade 3. Ho’onani Hula Warrior’s story of courage, confidence and celebration of identity is one that any learner can connect with and benefit from. 

Angelique Thompson is a member of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto.

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