Thursday, May 18, 2023

Lei and the Fire Goddess


My Thoughts:

Hawaiʻi raised author, Malia Maunakea, adds to local Hawaiʻi centered upper elementary, middle level options for readers with her new book Lei and the Fire Goddess. Hawaiʻi students will understand from the cover picture that the fire goddess is Pele and that this will be about a contemporary encounter with Pele in Hawaiʻi. It takes the legends, the moʻolelo of Hawaiʻi and puts it into a contemporary story similar to the action, adventures in the vein of Percy Jackson and the Rick Riordan presents authors who use their own cultural legends and mythology to tell a current story.

Although the description of Kamapuaʻa does not quite match the moʻolelo written in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, it does not matter because Maunakea writes an exciting mirror for Hawaiʻi students and creates a sliding glass door for students on the continent. In addition, like native writer Angeline Boulley reveals in her first book Firekeeper's Daughter, some cultural things are not meant to be shared outside. This is also true in Hawaiʻi where we have published moʻolelo and we have familial moʻolelo.

Upper elementary and middle level readers will gobble this up, so make sure this is on your book shelves for fall. But if you purchase this book, also make sure that you have some of our older Hawaiian mythology, legends and tales books so that students can also be encouraged to know the original mythology and start writing their own contemporary adventure stories as a way for them, like the main character, to embrace their name and their identity as kupaʻāina o Hawaiʻi. 

From the Publisher:

Curses aren't real.

At least, that's what twelve-year-old, part-Hawaiian Anna Leilani Kamaʻehu thinks when she listens to her grandmother's folktales about sacred flowers and family guardians. Anna's friends back home in Colorado don't believe in legends, either. They're more interested in science and sports—real, tangible things that stand in total contrast to Anna’s family’s embarrassing stories.

So when Anna goes back to Hawaiʻi to visit her Tūtū, she has no interest in becoming the heir to her family’s history; she’s set on having a touristy, fun vacation. But when Anna accidentally insults Pele the fire goddess by destroying her lehua blossom, a giant hawk swoops in and kidnaps her best friend, and she quickly learns just how real these moʻolelo are. In order to save her friends and family, Anna must now battle mythical creatures, team up with demigods and talking bats, and evade the traps Pele hurls her way.

For if Anna hopes to undo the curse, she will have to dig deep into her Hawaiian roots and learn to embrace all of who she is.

Publication Information:

Author: Malia Maunakea

Publisher: Penguin Workshop (June 6, 2023)

About the author: Malia Maunakea is a part-Hawaiian writer who grew up in the rainforest on the Big Island (Hawaiʻi island) before moving to a valley on Oʻahu in seventh grade. She relocated to the continent for college, and resides in Colorado with her husband, two children and a rescue mutt named Peggy. 

1 comment:

Malia Maunakea said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to review LEI! I love that you bring up Kamapuaʻa's differences. I definitely took some liberties on our traditional moʻolelo, reimagining these legends for this fictional story while trying to maintain their core integrity. In fact, I made discussion guides for teachers to use (free on my website and #9 asks "Pele, Kamapuaʻa, Poliʻahu and moʻo are all represented in countless Hawaiian moʻolelo. In what ways did the author keep their traditional personality traits? How are they different in this story? Why do you think the author chose to make these changes?" Love the idea of making it a whole unit on moʻolelo and sharing traditional and original mythologies and creating more of their own (in my discussion guide I also suggest extension activities and #2 is researching stories and artwork online of Hawaiian moʻolelo and comparing them to LEI and give the artists Herb Kāne and Solomon Enos as examples). Please, anyone reading this, feel free to go download the guide for your use! Thank you again for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!