You know me. I LOVE books, art, and films that focus on the Native Hawaiian community and our Pacific Island cousins. I love them so much that my blog focuses on interviewing these amazing creators. As native peoples, our voices have traditionally been underrepresented. Thankfully, this is changing, with books by Native Hawaiian/Polynesian authors including Gabby Ahuli’i, Tammy Paikai, Malia Maunakea, Shar Tuiʻasoa, Brook Parker, and now, Kaylin Melia George, entering the market.
Aloha Everything is a beautiful, sweeping introduction to Hawaiian culture and history, especially helpful for those unfamiliar with the Native Hawaiian people.
The debut picture book by Native Hawaiian author Kaylin Melia George and illustrated by Hawaii-based artist Mae Waite, Aloha Everything is written in rhyme, an effective story-telling technique for reaching young readers and their grown-ups.
The spreads read like dream sequences full of authentic Hawaiian imagery. The book moves quickly, touching on the many traditions that are important to the Hawaiian people.
The phrase “What did hula teach her?” is repeated three times in the book, and although the book is not actually about hula, the refrain is an effective device that helps organize the global topics to make them easier for young readers to grasp.
The back matter provides a pronunciation guide and glossary in addition to biographies of both author and illustrator. I love lots of back matter in picture books, and included enrichment materials will be welcomed by schools, hālau, and other readers.
Aloha Everything is one of the most beautiful picture books I’ve ever seen. At the risk of sounding over the top, the illustrations are staggeringly beautiful. More than supporting the text, the art does its own storytelling. Like all great illustrations in children’s literature, they are key to understanding and appreciating the culture and history explained in the book.
Artist Mae Waite is a wonder. Her vibrant, magical artwork leaps off the page. I love all of the illustrations, but my favorite accompanies the first “What did hula teach her?” refrain. In it, the girl is in a hula pose, as to say mahalo to the gods and the ʻāina: arms stretched before her, eyes closed, her long dark hair swirling all around in hues of purple and lavender. Gorgeous.
Each spread is richly layered, a riot not just of color but of images. You know how some picture books contain pretty but forgettable illustrations that you don’t really stop to look at? Not so with Aloha Everything. With Ms. Waite’s art, I found myself slowing down to examine the tiny details that make up the composition as a whole.
More than just pretty, the illustrations are the perfect jumping off point for discussions. I can imagine a class using an illustration as a starting point to explore Hawaiian culture, such as the concept of aloha in the title, the myth of the demigod Maui lassoing the sun, the process of traditional kapa making, and the various flora and fauna of Hawaiian forests.
As much as I love the imagery, I felt interactions the girl might’ve had with ʻohana, especially with her makua, were missing.
Overall, Aloha Everything is a beautiful introduction to Native Hawaiian culture and a worthy addition to any bookshelf.
Written by Kaylin Melia George, illustrated by Mae Waite
Suggested for ages 5 — 8
Please read our disclaimer to learn our book review policy. Mahalo!
Galley review copy and images courtesy of Kaylin Melia George.