friday feast: a soothing lullaby and a side of chocolate!

“In Hawai’i the warm breeze often carries the sound of the ocean waves, the rustling leaves, and the rhythmic chants of the hula. It is not difficult to imagine rocking one’s child, or keiki (keh kee), to sleep to the accompaniment of this gentle cadence.” ~ Foreword, Hula Lullaby, by Erin Eitter Kono.

I first heard about Hula Lullaby when Sam Riddleburger interviewed Erin Eitter Kono for Robert’s Snow: Blogging for a Cure 2007, organized by Jules and Eisha at 7-Imp.

High quality picture books about Hawai’i always get my immediate attention because they are so few and far between. This one just happens to be beautifully produced and culturally authentic, making it even rarer and cause for unabashed adulation.

Hula Lullaby is pitch perfect — from the title page, awash in deep, Prussian blue and graced by red anthuriums, to the Foreword spread, set against the red-orange sky of a Hawaiian sunset, to the simple, soothing, repetitive rhyme of the lullaby itself, as it enfolds the reader in its warm, tropical spell:

Come little keiki
Crawl into my lap
Listen to the ipu
thump tap thump-a-tap.

See the fire’s glow
Toss its golden light
Watch the dancers sway
Against the starry night.

There is a wonderful feeling of completeness here, a reverence for and connection to the natural world, which is underscored by a prevalence of round/circular images — mother’s arms caressing her child, hula skirts, lei, waves, moon, flowers. The lilting chant is accompanied by instruments made from natural materials — a pahu, or drum made from a hollowed tree, an ipu heke, made from two gourds, and the pu’ili, bamboo rattles.


The reference to sky, mountain, land, and sea reminds me of a well-known chant by Hawaiian translator, ethnographer, and composer, Mary Kawena Pukui, entitled, “Behold,” which is often taught to grade school children.

Above, above
all birds in air

Below, below
all earth’s flowers

inland, inland
all forest trees

seaward, seaward
all ocean fish

sing out and say
again the refrain

Behold this lovely world.

In Erin Eitter Kono’s entrancing book, the whole world partakes in this nighttime symphony.


The primitive acrylic and pencil illustrations are rendered in lush jewel tones, remniscent of Tahitian paintings by Gauguin. The movement of the dancers, the rolling and crashing of the sea waves, and the drift of warm breezes, all perfectly complement the pacing of the text, as the mother rocks, rocks, her baby to sleep. I love the sensual detail, too — smell of the sea, fragrance of flowers, sounds both natural and manmade, which further envelops the reader in its comforting embrace.

Hula Lullaby received the Excellence in a Picture Book Award from the Children’s Literature Council, and was named Best Lullaby and Goodnight Book by Nick, Jr. Magazine. Because of the traditional hula instruments (explained briefly in the Foreword), various Hawaiian flora and fauna, and its lyric beauty, this book, aside from being a lovely bedtime story, is an excellent resource for general Hawaiian study.


*As a special treat, Erin has agreed to share one of her favorite recipes, Chocolate Truffles!  She says it’s not Hawaiian, but “really really good.” Since it calls for Belgian chocolate, I need no convincing. Now, this is what I call the perfect way to sweeten the new year!

from Erin Eitter Kono


1/2 lb. bitter sweet chocolate (preferably Belgian)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter (preferably Irish)

crushed almonds


Melt chocolate and butter over simmering water.  Refrigerate until firm.  Scoop 1/2 inch balls and roll in hands until round, drop into crushed almonds and roll until coated.  Try not to eat all in one sitting.  Can also substitute almonds with other nuts, or cocoa.

Thanks, Erin!!

For more about Erin, visit her website or blog, and read this great article at

For more about Mary Kawena Pukui, see my Poetry Friday post here.

And be sure to check in with Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book of the Day for today’s Roundup!


**Interior spreads posted by permission, copyright © 2005 Erin Eitter Kono, published by Little, Brown. All rights reserved.

31 thoughts on “friday feast: a soothing lullaby and a side of chocolate!

  1. As always, I leave feeling I’ve discovered a new treasure. Thanks for this post.

    Janet@across the page


  2. Hula lullaby

    Hi Sis, What a gorgeous book! This is one for the grandchildren, thanks for sharing! Love, Syl


  3. Friday Feast

    Elaine M.

    Can’t beat this post! Beautiful picture book art, lyrical language–and a recipe for chocolate truffles. It doesn’t get much better than that!


  4. Oh! Excellent bedtime story picture books like this one are so wonderful. Makes me want to be tucked in at night and read to. Or tuck a wee one in myself and read to him/her. *warm, fuzzy thoughts and feelings*

    Into the Wardrobe


  5. That book looks and sounds lovely. Wow.

    My usual online handle is “plumeria” (you might see me called “Plu” at times) – just for pictures like that. 😀 I can almost feel their softness and breathe their heavenly scent, just from that photo. (But only the real ones. Fake plumeria perfumes are a no-no.)


  6. Oh, so that’s how “MiniPlu” got her name!! Learn something new every day :). The scent of plumeria is SO Hawaii — probably because they are the commonest flower lei made over there.


  7. Hee, yes, that’s why my elder daughter is called MiniPlu online. Someone bestowed the nickname on her just before we went to go get her (almost six years ago!), and it stuck. 🙂


  8. Behold this lovely world indeed.

    And behold Jama, who can write the most intelligent and culturally knowledgeable reviews of gorgeous books and make you want them, right now!!


  9. Happy New Year!

    Welcome back from your (sounds delicious!) vacation! I have missed the color, music, and food of your posts. I skimmed back over this week and got all three. Plus the scent of Plumeria!

    I agree about giving this book at baby showers. Another to add to my list.

    I made peanut clusters earlier this morning and I’m making shortbread now. Loving recipes that are almost exclusively chocolate or butter or nuts (or chocolate and butter and nuts, as are the truffles!!! Yowsa!)


  10. Re: Happy New Year!

    Happy New Year to you, too, ML! You’re tormenting me with mention of shortbread and peanut clusters! My only consolation is that tomorrow I’m going to try making Michelle Obama’s Apple Cobbler. Do you think if I doubled the recipe it would serve the 4 million people swarming into town next week? 😀


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