Cover Image: Ho'onani: Hula Warrior

Ho'onani: Hula Warrior

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Member Reviews

This book is based on real life and is about a child who does not feel like a girl or boy. The child doesn’t feel as though they need to conform to a gender. They decide to dance in the boy’s group despite what others may feel or say. I really liked that this was a children’s picture book because there isn’t enough literature that represents diversity and children who may have the same thoughts or feelings deserve to see/read that representation.
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Ho'onani: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale is a delightful, empowering picture book for kids based on a true story. Ho'onani is part of a big, loving family who mostly encourage her to be herself. All but her sister, that is. Her sister can't understand why Ho'onani doesn't act like a 'normal' girl. But Ho'onani doesn't feel like a 'girl'. She doesn't feel like a 'boy' either. She feels somewhere in-between. Hawai'ian actually has a word for someone who feels this way, and it was perfectly acceptable before contact with Europeans. (Many indigenous cultures all over the world had or have anywhere from 3-10 gender identities. The concept is not as new and radical as opponents of the idea would have people believe.) When it is announced at her school that a hula will be performed, Ho'onani decides to try out, even though it is supposed to be the boys only. Not only does she succeed in getting a place with the troupe, she ends up the leader of it! This is a great illustration that if a person is capable of something, gender stereotypes shouldn't prevent them from being able to do it. I like the fact that the antagonistic, doubting sister didn't stifle Ho'onani's determination and dedication. I read this with my cubs and we all enjoyed it. Highly recommended!

***Many thanks to the Netgalley & Penguin Random House/ Tundra Books for providing an egalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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This story is about a little girl, named Ho’onani, in Hawaii who identifies as being in between a boy and a girl. She refers to herself as a girl, but she wants to join the boys hula troupe at her school. After some convincing, she is allowed to join the boys and even lead them in a performance.

Ho’onani was a strong girl in the story. She wanted to be a hula warrior, so she kept trying to reach her dream. She received some backlash at home, when her sister didn’t approve of what Ho’onani was doing. Even through these harsh comments, she still kept her unique identity.

I really enjoyed this picture book about identity.

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved this story! Ho'onani doesn't feel like a girl and doesn't feel like a boy, she feels like Ho'onani. She tries out for a school hula chant that is normally for boys only, and not only gets accepted, but is made the leader. She knows some people at the performance may not like this, but she says "If someone wants to leave, that is their problem." And she was fierce. See for yourself in the short film "A Place in the Middle."

#HoonaniHulaWarrior #NetGalley
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Often times, picture books about gender and gender roles are very black and white: the character distinctly feels one way or another. Ho'onani is less rigid. This is a child who does not have a clear gender identity. And, Gale is reminding us, that should not matter. She's strong, she's capable. What else matters? Gale asks us why certain traits are associated with the masculine or the feminine, rather than asking about the identity of the child. And more importantly, we see Ho'onani's confusion and dismay when she's rejected by her sister, a rejection that causes her to question her decisions. While the resolution is perhaps a bit overly simplified, that's generally what we expect from a picture book.
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This is a fabulous book about being true to yourself, not worrying about what others think, and what to do when you don't fit into traditional gender roles. I love how strong Ho'onani is as a character, and love that she does what she wants to do no matter what. This will make a fantastic addition to any school, home, or classroom library. It needs to be shared with children of all ages.
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Strong, determined and unique; that's Ho'onani! She know what she wants, embraces the different and values her culture and history. A wonderful story!
#Netgalley
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Ho'onani Hula Warrior is a great read for students today. The message of the story is that children can be whatever they want to be. Gender does not define your role. This is a great book to illustrate a person's passion and following one's dream. The pictures are beautifully illustrated, and I loved how the story depicted the Hawaiian culture.
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This book would be a good starting point for discussing different cultures and gender identity. Many parents may be uncomfortable with having this discussion with their children, so should be aware that that’s mentioned in this book. It was a nice story of triumph though.
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A great book about gender diversity. A great way to add to the number of kids that see themselves reflected in literature.
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Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley

Ho'onani Hula Warrior is a picture book re-telling of a documentary film about a young Hawaiian who feels that girl or boy as a designation doesn't always fit for everyone. There is a middle space and that is where Ho'onani is most comfortable. Ho'onani has people who support this identification and a space is held for people in this middle place in the Hawaiian culture - at least there had been until first contact with non indigenous people. There are people who are trying to make sure this is again something that is honored and accepted. Because both the picture book and the documentary are created by outsiders, I was worried, but for the most part, it seems to keep Ho'onani's perspective centered. It would be a powerful way to enter into discussion with people about what it means to be nonbinary. 

Recommendation: Get it and have some excellent discussion. Also, the movie is great.
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Beautifully written Hawaiian story about being yourself regardless of others...and yourself. Can’t wait to share this with my students!
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I loved this story and really appreciated the message. We need more stories like this one on our shelves. The illustrations weren’t my favorite but the story was beautifully written.
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Thanks NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
I loved this story of a little Hula warrior and their journey to express their true self, unconfined by gender roles!
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In Hawaiian culture you can be feminine, masculine, or both.  This story is about Ho’onani who finds her place in the middle as a Hula Warrior.  This story is based on true events that can be seen in the documentary A Place in the Middle.  This is a nice true life tale of someone finding themselves, a school’s acceptance, and a look at the family involved.
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LOVE IT. Everything about this book is adorable. The artwork is simple yet detailed and colorful. love that its informational and cultural.: If only there were more children's books like this!!
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A beautiful and empowering story about Ho’onani Kamai and her teacher Kumu Hina and a powerful message of acceptance and belonging.  Author Heather Gale and illustrator Mika Song together create a beautiful story about a person who doesn’t always feel like a wahine (girl) or a kāne (boy) and becomes a hula warrior “strong, sure and steady.”  Based on a documentary called A Place in the Middle, this book delivers a clear message about acceptance in a way young readers can clearly understand.  

Ho’onani just sees herself as Ho’onani, not necessarily wahine and not kāne either.  She is creative and independent and young readers can get their first understanding of gender fluidity.  She wants to be part of the kāne traditional hula chant and is encouraged to try out by her teacher/coach Kumu Hina, who is a cultural leader and activist and also a transgender woman.  Ho’onani‘s family is very supportive of her choice, all but her sister Kana who doesn’t understand why, in her mind, Ho’onani chooses to reject wahine things and embrace kāne things.  My favourite line in the story is Ho’onani’s response to her sister:
“Just because I feel more kāne doesn’t mean I’m not wahine.  I’m in the middle!  Why can’t you let me be me!”  It’s such a vital lesson for young readers, a lesson in acceptance.  Children now are benefiting from a culture of more acceptance of differences, creative expression and the non-binary.  While unfortunately many adults did not live in a world where acceptance of differences was accepted, the next generation is living with the beautiful reality of acceptance and creativity.  I’m not naive enough to think it is happening everywhere, the news cycle brings that reality into sharp focus, however if we can allow children to learn through the stories of others and through beautiful picture books like Ho’onani Hula Warrior, perhaps they will feel seen within it’s pages and also be not so quick to judge when a peer chooses to express themselves in a non-binary way.

I’m glad Heather Gale was inspired by the story of Ho’onani Kamai and Kumu Hina and that we have this beautiful book to share with our children however, I encourage you to check out the website aplaceinthemiddle.org to learn more about Kumu Hina and Ho’onani Kamai.  If you are planning to use this book in your classroom, please take the time to do the research and learn more and download the resources so you can share this beautiful story fully and completely with your students.  It is vitally important for children to learn this story from the people who have lived this experience, to hear them tell it in their own words with their own voices
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I love this! The art is beautiful, which is very important to me. The story is exciting, with a great message on two levels: a broadly applicable message of "you can achieve your dreams" as well as the specific message of accepting people for who they are.

The only thing I would want differently is a pronunciation guide to the Hawaiian words so I don't mispronounce them trying to read this out loud to my daughter.
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An important book that many children will relate to! I can’t wait to share it with my students. I loved learning about Hawaiian culture/language as well.
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This is a simple narrative (based on a true story) about Ho'onani and her quest to perform in the boys' hula troupe.

I like how the issue of gender is addressed here. Ho'onani really wants to be part of the hula troupe. But it's traditionally only for boys. There's an audition, and she tries out and gets in. As she tells her sister, she feels more male than female. So why shouldn't she be part of the boys' troupe? What I really like is that Ho'onani doesn't really care about the traditional gender rules here; she simply wants to dance in the troupe because it's something she enjoys. Even after her teacher takes her aside and tells her that some parents might not want a girl leading their boys in the hula, she sticks to her convictions. Basically, if they don't like it, that's their problem.

The pictures here aren't really in a style that I like, but they're adequate enough to do the job.

This book is apparently based on a documentary. I wouldn't mind having a look at that, since the picture book format has certain limitations.

Overall, this is a fairly solid non-fiction picture book for kids that talks about a cultural practice that's probably unfamiliar to most people outside of Hawaii. For those interested in books about other cultures, it's worth taking a look.
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