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.
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.
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.
Written and illustrated by Shar Tuiʻasoa
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.