If you asked me who’s writing the very best Hawai’i-related children’s fiction these days, the answer would be very simple: Graham Salisbury.
For almost two decades, I’ve read his short stories and middle grade novels with awe and admiration, grateful that someone has been able to accurately capture the soul, spirit, and authentic flavor of the Islands. I’ve read other books set in Hawai’i — there are palm trees, beaches, and volcanoes galore, but when it comes to portraying characters who feel so believably local that I’m sure I must have known them at some point in my life, Salisbury’s the man.
THE CLOUDMAKERS by James Rumford (Houghton Mifflin, 1996),
picture book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Twelve years ago, I wrote my first ever author fan letter to James Rumford, whose first picture book, The Cloudmakers (Houghton Mifflin, 1996), totally blew me away.
There was just something magical about this story of a Chinese grandfather and grandson, who taught their Arab captors how to make paper (“clouds”). The watercolors were luminous — skyscapes of billowy wonder. Since Jim just happened to live in Hawai’i, I also asked in my letter for some research assistance pertaining to a biography I was working on.
He wrote back right away with helpful suggestions that set me on my way. That same year, I went to Hawai’i for a couple of booksignings for my third book, The Woman in the Moon. I’ll never forget the moment a stranger walked into the bookstore, a haole man with a beard and ponytail. Someone other than friends and family had come to see me? Wow, this was big!
Today seemed like the perfect time to talk about this enduring classic — it’s Banned Books Week, and, equally important, this story ends with a huge helping of pancakes!
I’ve loved Little Black Sambo since childhood and was not fully aware of all the details regarding its controversial history until recently. It’s been continuously in print since 1899, ever since the copyright was sold outright to a London publisher for a mere five pounds. Subsequently, the author lost all control over the more than 50 pirated editions distributed in ensuing decades. Many of these contained offensive illustrations perpetuating racial stereotypes — pictures not created by Scotswoman Helen Bannerman herself.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Bannerman’s own illustrations were not disputed. Innocently enough, she wrote the story for her two daughters while living in India, and never really intended to publish it until a friend encouraged her to do so. Bannerman mixed fanciful elements — one of the first black heroes in children’s literature encountering and outsmarting ferocious tigers in India, with a meal at the end featuring European pancakes.
“I do not remember a time when I did not try to invent pictures and make for myself a fairyland amongst the wild flowers, the animals, fungi, mosses, woods and streams, all the thousand objects of the countryside.” ~ Beatrix Potter
Here’s a bracing cup of English Breakfast tea and a warm blueberry muffin to start your day!
The light, misty rain we’ve been getting recently reminds me of England. While sipping my tea, I remembered visiting Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm located in Near Sawrey, in the Lake District. To get there, we drove through rolling farmland and wooded hillsides, everything so green, with stone houses nestled around every turn.
Potter at Hill Top, 1913
I might have read Peter Rabbit as a child, but only came to know the rest of Potter’s work as an adult. Making the pilgrimmage to Hill Top, which Potter purchased with money earned from her first few books, was my inner child’s dream come true. This was where Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten, and Samuel Whiskers were born, and where Potter began to reclaim her life after her fiance, Norman Warne, died suddenly of leukemia.
More Beatrix, with poems, references and a recipe!