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.
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!