Book Review: Punky Aloha, by Shar Tuiʻasoa


It’s a fact of the mar­ket­place that many pic­ture books with the unfor­tu­nate tim­ingPunky Aloha of being released dur­ing the COVID pan­dem­ic were often not giv­en the atten­tion they deserved.

And that’s real­ly too bad, because they mer­it space on our bookshelves.

Punky Alo­ha, the debut pic­ture book by tal­ent­ed author/illustrator Shar Tuiʻa­soa, is one of these hid­den gems. Released in mid-2020 dur­ing the height of the pan­dem­ic, Punky is just the kind of delight­ful sto­ry kids — and their grown-ups — will love.

We meet lit­tle Punky Alo­ha with her best friend, her grand­moth­er. They love to go on all kinds of fun escapades togeth­er. Punky tell us that she was­n’t always the brave adven­tur­er she is now.

It all began, Punky says, with a fresh­ly baked loaft of grand­ma’s banana bread. Need­ing but­ter to slather on the top of the loaf, Grand­ma sends her to the near­by mar­ket to pick some up for her.

Feel­ing a bit fear­ful of going by her­self (“If I go to the mar­ket, I’m sure to bump into some­one new. And when­ev­er I bump into some­one, I start to feel shy,” Punky con­fess­es), lit­tle Punky hes­i­tates, until her grand­moth­er gives her a pair of bright yel­low “mag­i­cal” sun­glass­es that will help her meet the task at hand.

Before Punky leaves, Grand­ma reminds Punky to show her alo­ha by being help­ful, giv­ing, and brave to all she meets.

And so Punky’s big adven­ture begins. Using her wits — and her alo­ha — Punky over­comes her shy­ness to help those she meets on the way to the mar­ket. At the end of the book, Punky and her grand­ma are right­ly proud of her­self, and she is reward­ed with a big dose of con­fi­dence … and a thick slice of banana bread with melt­ing butter.

Illus­tra­tion © Shar Tuia­soa from Punky Alo­ha by Shar Tuia­soa (Harper­Collins, 2022)

I love this book. The inter­gen­er­a­tional sto­ry is charm­ing. The inter­ac­tion between Punky and her grand­ma is warm and sweet.

Ulti­mate­ly, Punky Alo­ha res­onates with kids. They don’t have to be Poly­ne­sian girls to see them­selves in her, a kind, car­ing, adven­tur­ous character.

And did I men­tion that the book is gor­geous? Fea­tur­ing Shar’s trade­mark trop­i­cal col­ors, the illus­tra­tions are vibrant greens, reds, oranges, yel­lows, and blues. Punky her­self is adorable with her messy chignon (a won­der­ful “tita bun”), slip­pers, and skate­board. Each spread is so beau­ti­ful that I bought a sec­ond copy of the book just so I tear the pages out and frame them to dec­o­rate the bed­room of my own lit­tle Punky Alo­ha, my five year old granddaughter. 

Illus­tra­tion © Shar Tuia­soa from Punky Alo­ha by Shar Tuia­soa (Harper­Collins, 2022)

I wish Shar’s pub­lish­er had encour­aged her to pro­vides enrich­ment activ­i­ties around Punky Alo­ha. The book eas­i­ly sug­gests oppor­tu­ni­ties for those seek­ing sto­ry­telling from diverse and under­rep­re­sent­ed voic­es, includ­ing class­room activ­i­ties around the mean­ing of alo­ha. Teach­ers, librar­i­ans, and fam­i­lies can incor­po­rate the book’s theme of social and emo­tion­al learn­ing as Punky demon­strates skills that all kids need to meet challenges. 

For so many rea­sons, Punky Alo­ha is a must read.

Punky Alo­ha
Writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Shar Tuiʻa­soa 
Harper­Collins, 2020
ISBN 978–006379236
Sug­gest­ed for ages 4 — 8 

Meet author/illustrator Shar Tuiʻa­soa in our talk-sto­ry inter­view. Punky Alo­ha and all of Sharʻs gor­geous col­lectible illus­tra­tions and prints are avail­able at Punky Alo­ha Stu­dio.

Images from Brown Baby Books. Please read our dis­claimer to learn our book review pol­i­cy. Mahalo!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Punky Aloha, by Shar Tuiʻasoa”

  1. Thank you for bring­ing this book and its author/illustrator to our atten­tion. I’ll be sure to pass on the info to my local library at South El Monte, Ca for inclu­sion in their Chil­dren’s sec­tion Besides the learn­ing life lessons offered in the nar­ra­tive of “Punky Alo­ha”, the tragedy in Maui has put Hawaii on the nation­al spot­light so that any­thing cul­tur­al­ly Hawai­ian has tak­en on new mean­ing and relevancy.

    • Maha­lo, Luis, for shar­ing this book with your local library. Shar is a tal­ent­ed Poly­ne­sian artist whom more peo­ple should know about. Much alo­ha to you!


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