Book Review: Aloha Everything

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.

Illus­tra­tion @ Mae Waite from Alo­ha Every­thing by Kaylin Melia George (Mythi­fy, 2023)

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.

Illus­tra­tion @ Mae Waite from Alo­ha Every­thing by Kaylin Melia George (Mythi­fy, 2023)

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.

Illus­tra­tion @ Mae Waite from Alo­ha Every­thing by Kaylin Melia George (Mythi­fy, 2023)

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.

Alo­ha Every­thing
Writ­ten by Kaylin Melia George, illus­trat­ed by Mae Waite
Mythi­fy, 2023
ISBN 978–1636551128
Sug­gest­ed for ages 5 — 8 

Meet author Kaylin Melia George and illus­tra­tor Mae Waite in our talk sto­ry interviews. 

Please read our dis­claimer to learn our book review pol­i­cy. Mahalo!

Gal­ley review copy and images cour­tesy of Kaylin Melia George.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.