Tag Archives: Hawaii

A CHAT WITH… LEHUA PARKER

Lehua Parker is an extraordinary person. Her talent, imagination, and brilliant sense of humour led to the creation of the Niuhi Shark Saga – an engaging trilogy for younger audiences. Do you want to know more about the books? Read on.

LEHUA PARKER

Pasifika Tales: How did you come up with the idea for the Niuhi Shark Saga?

Lehua Parker: Way back in second grade at Kahului Elementary, I saw a film called ‘Legends of Hawaii’. It told the story of Nanaue, the demi-god who could take shark or human form and how as a young man he lured people into the ocean and ate them. For decades I thought about how his human family hid him from the villagers and how his hunger was so great that he ate his friends. One wintry day, the snow outside was piled as high as the laundry in the hallway. Sorting clothes, I thought about Hawaii and this story again. I sat down and started what was going to be an adult novel that explored the relationship between a tourist and a Hawaiian demi-god. But these rascally kids kept popping up, and I wrote more about them than the adults. What if there was a kid who didn’t know he was a shark? What if instead of allowing him to prey on humans, his family did everything they could to keep him from becoming a monster? Once lightning struck and I realized Zader was allergic to water and Jay was a surfer, I abandoned the adult novel and started to write what became ‘One Boy, No Water’ and ‘One Shark, No Swim’.

PT: Was it difficult to write for a MG/YA audience? Did you encounter any challenges?

LP: The biggest challenge was writing an authentically Hawaiian story for island kids that would also be read by mainlanders and others not familiar with the culture. The first draft of ‘One Boy, No Water’ had a lot more Pidgin and far less explanation of cultural practices than the current third edition. I really wanted to write a story where island kids saw themselves and people they know that was also a story for kids who didn’t like to read. But the perceived market for these kinds of stories is very small, so I often found myself in a catch-22: the publisher didn’t want to invest in marketing because people weren’t buying the books in large numbers, but no one would buy books they didn’t know existed. In reaction to this, I wrote less Pidgin in ‘One Shark, No Swim’ and even less in ‘One Truth, No Lie’.

PT: The trilogy is based on Hawaiian tales and legends. Would you say that children and teenagers are drawn into stories of other worlds adjacent to our own?

LP: I think so. Fantasy and magic realism allow MG/YA readers to connect with difficult subjects in ways that are ‘safe.’ Zader is the ultimate outsider. On the surface, it’s because of his weird water allergy. But kids are smart. I think they look at Zader and see all the reasons kids are made to feel like outsiders to their peer groups, including race, religion, socio-economic status, scholastic ability, athletic ability, appearance, or sexual orientation. I think Zader’s journey from hiding who he is to using his weaknesses as strengths – and Jay’s journey, too – empowers kids to think about their own challenges differently.

PT: Although Hawaiian lore is omnipresent in the novels, you didn’t forget about the ‘real world’. You made Hawaii so vivid. Did you want to show readers what an incredible place the 50th state is?

LP: Oh, thank you! You’re too kind! Yes, I really wanted to show the real Hawaii, the Hawaii I grew up in, and not the plastic hula skirt version people think they know from television and movies. Remember I mentioned all the snow on the ground when I started ‘One Boy, No Water’? A lot of writing about Hawaii had to do with me being very homesick for the beach and island food. During the cold winter months where I live, local grocery stores and restaurants have ‘Hawaiian Days.’ They bust out paper flowers from India, masks from Papua New Guinea, samba music from Brazil, grass skirts from who knows where, and put canned pineapple on everything and call it Hawaiian. Frankly, some days it really gets on my nerves. Some of the writing was probably in reaction to this – you wanna see Hawaii? I’ll show you the real Hawaii!

PT: You were quite bold to incorporate Pidgin into the dialogues. Did you have any doubts whether or not this would be a good idea?

LP: I always wanted to use Pidgin – and to use more than what’s in the current editions. But books are funny things. They are commodities that have to meet market expectations and be profitable. The original publisher was targeting a mainstream USA market. For this market, there’s still too much Pidgin in the books. Outside of Hawaii, school kids really struggle, and at first glance, teachers and librarians think it’s poor grammar. Island kids and adults don’t have a problem with the Pidgin. They get excited to read it. But this puts me in a quandary for other stories I want to write in this world – how do I balance authenticity with marketability? Still trying to figure that out.

PT: Let’s focus on the characters for a moment. They are so well-developed! Who (or what) was your inspiration for them?

LP: Fearless authors and comedians like Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Amy Tan, Andy Bumatai, Rap Reiplinger, Kiana Davenport, and others showed me how to create characters that reflected the world around them. All of the characters in the Niuhi Shark Saga are either the kinds of people I had in my life – or wished I had – growing up. When I talk with island kids about the books, they all know somebody like Uncle Kahana, Jay, Char Siu, or Zader. I went to school with kids like Tunazilla, Alika, Maka, and Lisa Ling, and had teachers and neighbors just like the ones in the books.

PT: Which of the characters was most fun or difficult to write and why?

LP: I had the most fun with Ilima, the dog who is not a dog. When I first started writing her character, she was just a diva. But then I started to understand that she was so much more, and it became a lot of fun to think up ways to drop hints to the reader. One of the hardest was Jay in the third book. He goes through so many difficult things, and I hated that.

PT: What would you like readers – children and adults alike – to take away from the trilogy?

LP: To never be afraid to write your own truth. I hope people are entertained, of course, that the books bring back memories of hanabata days for adults and keeps kids engaged in reading a whole trilogy. But when I talk with school kids, I tell them that we each have our own stories, and those stories are important. If we don’t tell our stories, others will, and their false stories will become the truth for many. I tell them to be brave, to worry less about others say you can or can’t do, and just go for it.

PT: Will there be a continuation to the Niuhi Shark Saga?

LP: Yes. I have many more stories in my head, including some about Maka going to college, Lili and her birth mother, Ilima and Uncle Kahana solving other supernatural problems, and at least one book set during the time Zader was away in ‘One Truth, No Lie’ about a girl who can see ghosts and moves to Lauele and goes to Ridgemont with Char Siu, Maka, and Jay. There are also several short stories, including how Pua and Justin meet. Unfortunately, about two years ago, I put these stories on hold due to some ongoing challenges with the original publisher of the Niuhi Shark Saga that resulted in the eventual return of my rights to the series about a year ago. I’m hoping to return to them soon.

What are you working on right now and are there any new books on the horizon?

LP: A while ago, I decided to work on other projects, mainly short stories and essays which have been published in anthologies and literary journals. Right now, I’m working through a contract for five novellas based on fractured fairy tales. The first novella is called ‘Nani’s Kiss’, and it’s in ‘Fractured Beauty’, a boxed eBook set available in October from Amazon. ‘Nani’s Kiss’ is a sci-fi story loosely based on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and features Polynesians in space. I’m just starting the second novella in the series, a sweet contemporary romance based on ‘Cinderella’. During the family vacation to Hawaii, Rell has to play nanny to her rotten younger step-siblings who do all they can to ruin her vacation and convince the Prince that Rell’s not the one. The ‘Fractured Slipper’ boxed set is scheduled for publication in December. I’ve got one more top-secret book in the works, but no publisher on the horizon. I’m hoping to return to Lauele Town and those stories in November.

‘ONE TRUTH, NO LIE’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘One Truth, No Lie’ is the third and final volume in Lehua Parker’s Niuhi Shark Saga. It brings the much-anticipated conclusion to the story of Zader, a not-so-average teenager from the Lauele Town, Hawaii.

ONE TRUTH NO LIE

Summary

After Zader finds out who his birth parents are, his whole life changes immeasurably. The boy just knows that nothing will ever be the same again. But what he doesn’t expect is the ultimatum he will be given by The Man With Too Many Teeth, otherwise known as uncle Kalei.

Kalei makes Zader choose to either use his own teeth to brutally save his brother Jay’s life but live in exile from his Hawaiian family or… let him murder Jay.

Zader’s decision leads him on a great journey of discovery. He learns who he really is and realizes what, and who, truly matters to him.

Review

Let me start by saying right off the bat that this third volume of the Niuhi Shark Saga is just as good as its two predecessors. It is the perfect conclusion to the whole story and one that will stay in your head for days, making you think about your own life, the choices you make, and the importance of having a loving ohana (family).

I have to admit that the events in this novel took me by surprise. The first few chapters literally hit you like a thunderbolt, and you quickly realize that you probably won’t be able to predict what happens next. And you indeed can’t. The twists and turns are infinite. When you think you know in which direction the story is heading, the plot makes a sudden 180-degree turnaround and you are being left baffled; yet again. There is only one way to find out how the story turns out – you have to keep reading until you reach the last sentence. Which is not a problem, because the narrative draws you in from the very beginning. You become curious and interested, you want to know more. And you simply enjoy spending time in the magical world Lehua Parker has created.

Another reason why the book is so engaging are the characters. Zader, as the protagonist in the trilogy, is the focus of the story. His transformation from a teenager to a responsible young man is perhaps a little too idealistic, but definitely nicely portrayed. You can notice how he has changed from an insecure boy to a brave grown-up; how he has learnt to make choices and decisions and rely only on himself. That’s a great lesson, for children and adults alike.

Other characters are also given moments to shine. Especially Jay, who shows us how to fight through adversity, find positive in life, and never ever give up; and Maka, who lets us understand what it means to finally have something you’ve always wanted to have – a real family. Of course, uncle Kahana, Char Siu, Kalei, Pua, ‘Ilima, and the rest of the group make appearances as well, however they are much less visible than in the two previous volumes.

With this book Lehua Parker once again showed us her enormous talent. Her writing style and the language she uses are beyond compare. Everything – from descriptions to dialogues to wit and sense of humour – is perfectly dosed. Personally, I would prefer to see a bit more Pidgin in each chapter, but that’s not really a reason to complain. I have to say that you read Lehua Parker’s novels with pure pleasure. Whenever you finish one of her books, you instantly want to reach for another.

In the review of the first volume of the Niuhi Shark Saga I confessed that I don’t like children or young adult literature. But this trilogy is an exception. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you think. What can you want more?

‘ONE SHARK, NO SWIM’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘One Shark, No Swim’, written by Lehua Parker, is the second book in the Niuhi Shark Saga. It brings back the story of Zader and his Hawaiian ohana.

ONE SHARK NO SWIM

Summary

Life has been pretty good for Zader. With a little help from his uncle Kahana, he has learnt to manage his strange water allergy; the Blalahs has stopped bullying him; he got accepted into the prestigious Ridgemont Academy; and his brother Jay has taken up surfing again. Everything seems perfect; only it’s not.

Something keeps bugging Zader. The teenager can’t stop thinking about his dreams and new obsessions. Why is his mind preoccupied with knives? Why does he yearn for raw meat? And who are Dream Girl and The Man with Too Many Teeth? What do they want? No one gives the young boy any answers, even though there are people in Zader’s life who could probably unravel all the mysteries.

Review

Writing sequels is a very challenging task. You have to not only expand the story, but also – or rather more importantly – keep it interesting for the readers. And children, as well as young adults, can be a particularly demanding audience. But for Lehua Parker this seems to be no problem. The second book in the Niuhi Shark Saga is just as good as the first one.

Quite honestly, this volume doesn’t really feel like a sequel. It is simply a continuation of the tale; only this time you go deeper into the world the author has created. Now you are almost like a resident of Lauele Town, who dines at Hari’s and goes surfing at Piko Point every other day. You know the people, you know the place. And you are well aware that there is something going on with one of your neighbours, so you’re dying to finally uncover the truth.

‘One Shark, No Swim’ answers a lot of questions the reader might have had after finishing the previous volume. Zader’s past becomes clearer as new, and interesting, facts come to light. However, if you think that all the pieces in the puzzle will fall neatly into place before you reach the end, you are very much mistaken. Because with every single answer, more questions arise. Who? What? Why? When? Where? You may try to guess, you may try to predict what happens next, but you can’t bank on it. And that is the true beauty of this series.

Now, as the plot unfolds, you become more acquainted with the characters. In this book, Zader leads the way. He is a true protagonists, a central figure of the narrative. And although the story isn’t told entirely in the first person, you see the world through Zader’s eyes. You start to understand what he feels being a ‘different’ kid. You sympathize for him and cheer all the louder when he’s one step closer to discovering his true nature.

Of course, when mentioning the characters, you can’t forget about Zader’s family, especially uncle Kahana. This no-nonsense, wise, and funny old guy, sometimes treated like a big baby by his relatives, is a real star. Himself a man of many secrets, he is a mentor, a teacher, a protector, and a guardian of ancient Hawaiian culture. His complex persona makes him a little unknowable and therefore very intriguing. I wouldn’t mind having an uncle like Kahana, and I think you wouldn’t either.

The engaging plot and great characters are wrapped in beautiful words. Lehua Parker’s writing style is so fine that you can’t help but marvel at what she has created. It is not easy to write a novel that would suit children and adults alike. And yet she managed. The informal language (with an added bonus in the form of Hawaiian and Pidgin), vivid but not overwhelming descriptions, and a perfect dose of humour make this book an ideal read for any age group. No one will get bored, no one will be disappointed. It’s a title for the whole family. But be careful! It is possible that you will fight for the copy, so better buy two; or maybe even three… Just in case.

If you have read the first volume in the Niuhi Shark Saga, you literally have no choice but to read this one too. If you haven’t, you should catch up as soon as possible. Because the books are fantastic. Period.

‘ONE BOY, NO WATER’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘One Boy, No Water’ is the first volume in Lehua Parker’s Niuhi Shark Saga – a young adult magic realism trilogy set in modern Hawaii. It tells the story of a boy named Zader and his family.

ONE BOY NO WATER

Summary

Zader, a thirteen-year-old boy, was adopted by the Westin family when he was just a baby. Being allergic to water, he is living in his brother Jay’s shadow, on whom he relies to keep him safe from the bully Blalahs.

When Jay, a rising surfing star, shows off his impressive skills on the board, Zader sits above the beach doing what he does best – sketching. No one is aware that Zader has secrets; only his uncle Kahana seems to know more about the boy and his past than he’s willing to share.

Review

I’ll tell you something about myself: I don’t like children’s or Middle Grade/Young Adult books almost as much as I don’t like fantasy/magic realism genre. I decided to give the Niuhi Shark Saga a chance exclusively because it is Pacific Lit. I bought the three titles, but I was still quite (or rather very) sceptical. But then I read a few pages. And a few more. And suddenly I was officially hooked.

So yes, I admit, this is a fantastic book. Lehua Parker wrote a beautiful tale full of magic and authentic Hawaiian vibe. She managed to bring the local legends back to life, giving readers – young and adult alike – a chance to get to know the Aloha State and its fascinating culture. Actually, the references to Hawaiian lore are what makes this novel stand out! It doesn’t deal with werewolves, vampires, or wizards – so omnipresent in today’s popular literature – but draws from the ancient beliefs. So we have sharks, and ti leaves, and the mysterious Hawaiian martial art of Kapu Kuialua (which is considered sacred and taught underground since the mid-1800s). All this definitely makes the story feel fresh, unique, original. And isn’t that exactly what we expect from a good book?

Now, although the novel is somewhat focused on Hawaiian culture, it has several underlying themes that teach valuable lessons, as befits children’s and Young Adult literature. Together with Zader and Jay, readers learn how important it is to have family you can always count on, to do what is right, to overcome your fears, to respect the nature, and to never forget where you come from. You can’t run and hide from your problems; be bold and brave; whatever happens in your life – face it! This is such an inspiring message for young people, who often struggle to find their place. Zader’s and Jay’s experiences will surely give them courage, and uncle Kahana’s wise words the needed moral guidance.

Speaking of uncle Kahana, I have to praise the characters. They are unbelievably well created and defined. From Zader and Jay to Char Siu and the Blalahs to uncle Kahana (who is my favourite), every one of them is a distinct person with a distinct voice and personality. They are complex, plausible, and easy to identify with. They are like us: they make choices and decisions – sometimes good, sometimes bad; they have their dilemmas; they learn from their mistakes. They are ordinary people; ordinary in their extraordinariness.

Of course, it’s one thing to build strong characters, but it’s another to show the relationships between them. Lehua Parker succeeded in doing both. The interactions between Zader and his brother or uncle Kahana, the interactions between the teenagers, and finally the interactions between the adults are incredibly well thought over. They influence the story, making it much more convincing and compelling.

Do you know what else makes this novel so believable? The language – Hawaiian Pidgin, to be precise. You’ll find it in every single chapter and, quite possibly, on every single page. To people who don’t speak Pidgin (or Hawaiian), it may cause some problems, but there is a dictionary at the end of the book, so you can always use it. I think the addition of local creole was a genius idea. Well, you can’t really write a story set in Hawaii and have your characters say ‘Thank you’ instead of ‘Mahalo’, can you?

‘One Boy, No Water’ is a must read. If you have a youngster at home or are looking for a great gift, this should be your number one choice. Because this colourful island tale is engaging and appealing, thought-provoking and amusing, uplifting and wonderfully hopeful. It is like a breath of fresh Hawaiian air taken on a sunny day. Unforgettable and not to be missed. But, let me give you a piece of advice here, buy all three books at once – after the first volume you’ll be hooked; just like me.

BEST BOOKS BASED ON PACIFIC MYTHS, LEGENDS, FOLK TALES

The Telesa Trilogy by Lani Wendt Young

This highly acclaimed series is a modern take on Pacific mythology, which makes it a perfect read for teenagers.

The thrilling story of Leila Folger is a passionate romance based on the legends of Teine Sa, the spirit women of Samoa. The popular ancient beliefs are masterfully incorporated into the narrative – they constitute a considerable part of the story, yet they are not overwhelming.

The trilogy may be perfect for juvenile audiences, but you’ll love it even if you’re past your teenage years!

‘Sirena: A Mermaid Legend from Guam’ by Tanya Taimanglo

The story of Sirena, Guam’s legendary mermaid, is so well-known in the Pacific region that there is probably not a single person who wouldn’t be acquainted with it. This is one of the reasons why every Pasifika aficionado should read, and possess, Tanya Taimanglo’s book.

This particular retelling of the famous folk tale is a real beauty. Embellished with the most gorgeous illustrations – created by the author’s brother, Sonny Chargualaf – it will be an absolute treasure in your home library. Plus, it will definitely draw children’s attention!

‘Princess Hina & the Eel’ by King Kenutu

This is another wonderful book, especially for older children and teenagers.

The story of genuine, eternal love between a princess and a commoner is one of the better-known folk tales in Polynesia. It is captivating, thought-provoking, and timeless in its message. King Kenutu’s version is not only beautifully told but also full of passion that can be felt in each and every word.

The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

Lehua Parker’s saga is a brilliant example of engaging middle grade/young adult literature that’s deeply rooted in the local Polynesian mythology.

Although the series is not based on one particular myth, legend, or folk tale, it draws inspiration from old Hawaiian stories of a shapeshifting shark-man, Nanaue. It is not a retelling of the legend, but you may certainly find some similarities. Who knows, maybe Zader’s adventures will encourage you to delve into ancient tales from the Aloha State…

‘Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters’ by Margaret Wolfson

This book tells the ancient Fijian myth – especially popular on the island of Kadavu – about the Turtle princess and her daughter.

It’s a classic retelling, gracefully narrated and adorned with lovely – absolutely lovely – watercolours. The illustrations make the story come alive before the reader’s eyes, so even young children will read or listen to this tale with great interest.

A CHAT WITH… LEHUA PARKER

Lehua Parker is not only an enormously talented writer, but also an utterly lovely lady. Although she has been living among haoles for quite a while now, she is a true kama’aina. In the aloha spirit, she agreed to answer a few questions about her books and Hawaii.

LEHUA PARKER

Pasifika Tales: Pacific Literature enthusiasts are familiar with your Niuhi Shark Saga, which is absolutely amazing. But you also wrote another series, called Lauele Town Stories. Could you say something more about those tales?

Lehua Parker: Lauele Town Stories and The Niuhi Shark Saga are set in the same world, a place that’s mostly like modern Hawaii, but is also a place where the largely unseen world of myths and legends interact with humans. Like many small island towns, the residents’ lives in Lauele are entwined – some for generations.

The Niuhi books tell just a small sliver of what goes on in Lauele, and since it’s written for a middle grade/young adult audience there are only hints about larger, more adult motivations behind the action and plot in the series. The three Niuhi books are mostly told from Zader’s teenage point of view and are about his journey to discover who he really is and how he will live his life.

Lauele Town Stories are what I like to think of as side stories to the Niuhi books. They can be adult in nature and darker, but not always. They explore the clash of modern vs. traditional Hawaiian views of the world and the consequences of adult actions. Characters from the Niuhi books sometimes appear in Lauele Town Stories and when they do, readers often get a new perspective on events surrounding Zader.

PT: As for now, there are three stories in the series; three quite different stories. What was your inspiration for each of them?

LP: There are three published Lauele stories: ‘Birth’, ‘Tourists’, and ‘Sniff’.

‘Birth’ tells a little more about the day Uncle Kahana found Zader on the reef. In the Niuhi books, Zader has no idea that his birth begins the redemption portion of Uncle Kahana’s life. The most rational thing for Kahana to do when he finds a newborn infant is to call the authorities – not convince his niece to adopt it. This story explains a little more about why Kahana did what he did and why he’s so invested in Zader. ‘Birth’ is unusual in that there are two versions in one volume – one with a lot of Hawaiian Pidgin and the other in standard American English.

‘Tourists’ is really one long insider’s joke. Islanders know the most dangerous time to go swimming is after the sun goes down, that you never take a stone from a sacred place, and that tourists can really be a pain in the okole. The story also shows both Kalei and Kahana in a different light than the Niuhi books and explores other ways that they are connected.

‘Sniff’ started as a challenge from my sister to write something for a local newspaper’s short story contest and is the reason Lauele exists. I hadn’t written fiction for years and said I had no ideas. She said write about something a child knows is real but nobody believes. I laughed and said like monsters under the bed? But then I thought what if a child had a dangerous secret and thought the only way to protect his family was to deal with it himself?

After winning the contest, I was encouraged to keep writing. I started thinking about similar themes and parts of what eventually became both the Niuhi books and Lauele stories started pouring out. Eventually I went back to ‘Sniff’ and rewrote it the way I originally saw it in my mind – set in Lauele and sprinkled with Pidgin.

PT: Now, your books are set in the fictional town of Lauele. Does the place exist only in your imagination or is it modelled after a specific neighborhood?

LP: Lauele is entirely made up. Readers would have a hard time figuring out where on Oahu it would be because the sun sets in the ocean and rises over the mountains, which would put it on the Waikiki side, but the country living is more like Waimanalo or the north shore. The Hawaiian word lauele means to wander mentally or to imagine and that’s what I did as I created the valley, shoreline, roads, and harbor.

PT: Finish the sentence, please. Lauele town is…

LP: …a place where people who know how to see, listen, and feel can connect to the old Hawaii that lives just under the surface of everyday life.

PT: And the real Hawaii is…

LP: …home to many different cultures and people that are constantly redefining island style.

PT: Do you miss living in the 50th state?

LP: I miss my friends and family, of course. I miss the warm weather and the beach, especially when the snow is deep. My kids don’t have the same connections I do to the ocean and there are moments when that makes me sad. But a kumu hula (a Hawaiian dance/culture master) once said that wherever his feet walked was Hawaii and whatever breath he expelled was aloha. I try to keep that perspective and carry my Hawaiian-ness with me – even if it’s only on the inside.

PT: Ok, let’s get back to your Lauele Town Stories. Are there any morals, life truths you wanted to convey to your readers?

LP: One of the reoccurring themes in my work is the idea that things are not what they seem. On the surface everything functions one way, but there are secret interconnected relationships. The interconnectedness is what holds the surface together. Curious people look behind the curtain and see the real Oz pulling the levers – and that knowledge can be life changing.

PT: Can we expect more Lauele Town stories?

LP: Upcoming Lauele stories tell about the meeting of Zader’s biological parents, Uncle Kahana’s youthful rejection of his father’s traditional teachings, how Hari came to run the local store, and Nili-boy’s brush with Pele. I have an idea – just an idea – for future Lauele stories that involve a series for younger children about Ilima’s adventures based on Hawaiian mythology. There’s also a novel in my head about Lili discovering her birth mother’s family that’s not told in the Niuhi books. While the Niuhi Shark Saga books are a trilogy, I think I’ll be writing Lauele Town Stories for years.

‘TOURISTS’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘Tourists’ is one of the tales in Lehua Parker’s Lauele Town Series. It is also a companion book to the acclaimed Niuhi Shark Saga.

TOURISTS

 Summary

All Hawaiians know that when the sun goes down it is wise to stay out of the water. But some visitors simply can’t resist the ocean’s gentle waves. Just like the location scout from Hollywood who, after a week spent on searching for a perfect piece of Brazil on Oahu, couldn’t turn down the man’s offer. Well, it’s only a swim in the moonlight. And he’s kinda cute. Nothing bad can happen…

But Hawaiians also know that you can’t disrespect ancient cultures. When you take a stone from a sacred place, sooner or later you will be punished.

Review

Most readers associate Lehua Parker with middle-grade literature. She is, after all, the author of the famous Niuhi Shark Saga – one of the best book series geared toward a young audience. And, it must be noted, she truly excels at this particular genre. Her age-appropriate narratives are beautifully constructed, stimulating, and absolutely gripping. To put it simply, she really knows her craft.

That being said, you may be somewhat surprised to find out that Lehua Parker’s latest addition to the Lauele Town Stories is nowhere near the ‘MG fiction’ category – ‘Tourists’ is a tale intended for adults. Rich in symbolism and filled with mystery, it takes readers – rational, grown-up readers – on a rather unusual and definitely unforgettable journey to Hawaii – a familiar yet strange place where reality intertwines with magic.

I have to admit that the concept of incorporating local lore into the plot was quite a bold move, especially when you take into account the genre switch. Not very often does such underlying theme appear in literature written for those over…let’s say the age of 18. Well, you can’t treat a story in which one of the protagonists is a man-shark seriously, can you? Despite this obvious ‘unrealness’, the narrative is certainly not a fable; even if it teaches a moral lesson. Yes, not only did Mrs Parker embellish ‘Tourists’ with a pinch of mythology, but she also decided to use the tale as a reminder of life’s essential truths and fundamental principles. Through the two main characters, she wonderfully portrays the clash of modern and traditional values. ‘The Hollywood lady’ (what a fitting sobriquet!) is a more than accurate representation of the contemporary, cynical world where there’s this common belief that the right amount of money can get you everything you want and need. You don’t have to ask, you don’t have to plead. You just state your request and pay. And then there’s Kalei – a symbol of morality and decency who punishes the wrongdoers, making sure they suffer the consequences of their actions.

In the narrative the line between right and wrong is clearly visible. If only the distinction could be made just as easily in real life…

Those who’ve had a chance to read other titles in the Lauele Town series surely know what to expect from this story in terms of language and style. As you can imagine, it is beautifully written. Despite leisurely pace, the narration flows smoothly, keeping you engaged from the beginning to the very end. Poetic descriptions set the mood and the use of Hawaiian words, which you will have no trouble understanding, adds authenticity. All these, along with the aura of mystery that lingers over Keikikai beach, makes this short tale a truly worthy read.

I’m not sure ‘Tourists’ will let you experience the aloha spirit. But there is one thing I can guarantee you: you will never regret immersing yourself in Lehua Parker’s imaginary world.

‘SNIFF’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘Sniff’ is the second title in Lehua Parker’s Lauele Town Series. It’s a short tale that revolves around a Hawaiian boy and his hidden, closely guarded secret.

SNIFF

Summary

A young resident of Lauele Town, Kona Inoye, has a problem he cannot tell anyone about. Neither his parents nor his friends appear to have any idea that there is something under the boy’s bed. Something that craves sweet, clean, and nice-smelling things.

Kona does his best to deal with the difficult situation. But it’s not always easy, especially when mama tells him to bathe and put on fresh clothes. The boy knows that this time simply eating onions may not be enough to…survive.

Review

According to the official definition, a book series comprises publications that share a common theme, settings, or set of characters. So, let’s see what we can say about the Lauele Town Stories. Common theme? No. Common settings? Yes. Common set of characters? Well, yes and no. Is it a book series then? It is. A very interesting one. Lehua Parker certainly knows how to draw readers attention. Whenever you reach for one of her tales, you aren’t quite sure what to expect.

Apart from being set in the same fictional Hawaiian town, the narratives show no other similarities. ‘Birth’ is a wonderful novella that provides the background to Zader’s story, giving you a little more information regarding the characters you might know from the famous Niuhi Shark Saga. In ‘Sniff’ everything is new. New but just as unusual. The protagonist, Robert Konahele Inoye, appears to be an ordinary boy who leaves dirty socks on the floor, hates making his bed, and steals Oreo cookies from the kitchen cupboard. However, as you read through the pages, his chilling secret slowly unravels and you realize this tale goes deeper than you might have initially thought.

But how ‘serious’ can a story about some beast hiding under a child’s bed be? Well, Lehua Parker’s book proves that this rather common theme isn’t reserved for children’s or young adult literature only. Rich in symbolism, which will be actually more evident to mature readers than adolescents, ‘Sniff’ is quite thought-provoking. Somewhere between the lines the author camouflaged questions worth pondering on. How far will a person go to protect their family? Are even the most unbelievable things always a figment of somebody’s imagination? What happens when they turn out to be real? The ending of this tale is your answer. And, let me tell you, it’s an answer you wish you’d never got.

Of course, the fact that the story has a hidden message doesn’t make it any less entertaining overall. It’s still a delightful, humorous (at times hysterically funny) read that will keep you riveted from the very beginning. Exactly like ‘Birth’, this title also contains two versions of the narrative. The first one is written in Standard American English, the second is adorned with Hawaiian-style expressions and Pidgin words. If you are familiar with these, you know which version you should opt for.

I must admit I am truly impressed with Lehua Parker works. She is an extremely talented writer with a head full of bewitching ideas. She never fails to deliver a good story. And when it comes to ‘Sniff’… Well, if you like mysteries or are curious what can be found under a piece of furniture, treat yourself to this tale. It can be downloaded – for free – from the author’s website. Engaging, amusing, and intriguing at the same time, it is a wonderful book for children and adults alike.

‘BIRTH’ BY LEHUA PARKER

‘Birth’ is a short story penned by Lehua Parker. It is a prequel to the books of the Niuhi Shark Saga, which are focused on a boy named Zader and his adoptive family.

BIRTH

Summary

On a Sunday morning in peaceful Lauele Town, Kahana and his faithful dog ‘Ilima decide to stroll along the beach in order to catch some fish for breakfast. While combing the reef, they make a shocking but precious discovery – a newborn baby with a curious birthmark.

Kahana quickly realizes that the abandoned child needs a loving family – someone who will be able to take care of him. The only person that comes to his mind is his great-niece, herself a mother of an infant boy. When Elizabeth sees the little one, she makes a firm decision to keep him. Alexander, or Zader for short, becomes the youngest member of the Westin family.

Review

Everyone familiar with Lehua Parker’s Niuhi Shark Saga will be delighted with this tale, as it unravels the background of Zader’s remarkable story. Although some of the questions readers might ask – Where does Zader come from? Who is his birth mother? Why was he abandoned? – still remain a mystery, a few of the guarded secrets are finally explained.

That being said, those who have not (yet) read ‘One Boy, No Water’ – the first book in the Niuhi Shark Series – can get slightly confused. The narrative in ‘Birth’ is, undeniably, very engaging. However, there is virtually no information regarding the characters or the magical world they live in. You may notice that some of the pieces in this puzzle are missing. Indeed, they are; purposely. In order to find them, you have to read the remaining parts of Zader’s adventures. Can you call this a flaw? Absolutely not. Taking into account that the tale is a companion title to Parker’s novels, the lack of detailed descriptions is perfectly acceptable.

Now, and this is quite interesting, there are two versions of the story in this book. The first one – written in Standard American English – is for haoles, or people who don’t speak Hawaiian (unless you are haole who has at least basic knowledge of the 50th state). The second version, much more fascinating if you are acquainted with the islands’ slang and culture, uses Hawaiian words and phrases (without explanation). You are given a choice. But, if you want my advice, read both. You’ll see the difference.

When it comes to Lehua Parker’s writing style, it is absolutely exquisite. The choice of words, the balance between Standard English and Pidgin is truly marvelous. Even though the narrative is not filled with vivid imagery, you really get the feel of Hawaii – a place where aloha spirit roams the streets, people live in tune with nature, and nothing is more important than ‘ohana. I wouldn’t say the book is a page-turner, but it definitely holds your attention. After finishing the last sentence, you immediately want to immerse yourself in other tales from the Lauele Town series.

‘Birth’ is a wonderful read that will bring you a lot of enjoyment. Fantastic for children and adults alike, it’s a proof that short stories should not be dismissed out of hand. This one is surely worthy of your time.

THROUGH MY EYES: ‘HAWAIIAN ON THE INSIDE’ BY LEHUA PARKER

I was walking through Dick’s Sporting Goods in Salt Lake City, Utah when I saw it hanging on the back wall: a ski jacket with the same bird of paradise print my tutu had on her couch cushions in the ‘70s. Like a teri beef plate lunch special it called to me. My daughter was appalled. ‘You are NOT wearing that, Mom. No way!’

‘It’s reversible, right?’ my son asked.

My husband shrugged. ‘At least we’ll be able to find you in a crowd.’

I bought it.

And I wore it. For about a week it clashed with everything and everyone, as out of place as an aloha shirt at – well, a ski slope. When you’re an ex-pat Hawaiian living near world-class winter sporting grounds it can be hard to find the aloha spirit in the middle of January.

I tried not to care. I ignored the stares and snickers and carried my childhood wrapped around me like a blanket. But one day I caved and reversed it.

‘What’s up with your coat?’ my son asked.

‘It’s like me. I’m wearing my Hawaiian on my inside.’

He tilted his head. ‘Yeah, but unlike your coat you’re not even brown on the outside.’

Ouch.

Through a genetic quirk my youngest sister and I inherited our mother’s super fair northern European coloring while my other sister and brother have our father’s mixed Hawaiian heritage of medium brown hair, eyes, and skin.

I’m not going to lie to you. As the only blond, blue-eyed kid in the entire school district in Kahului, Maui it was rough. Unlike every other Hawaiian family I’ve known, my dad was an only child from a family of only children – and from Oahu. I didn’t have a huge ohana of cousins calabash or otherwise on Maui to vouch for me. It was easy to be the target from the teachers and principal on down.

No lie. People go to jail now for what they did to me in elementary school. But Maui was a different time and place back then. At least I like to think so.

There’s a disconnect that happens in your head when you’re beaten for being an outsider by kids who are descendants of sugarcane and pineapple workers from Asia when your ancestors farmed taro in those same fields for hundreds of years. But on the playground nobody cares about those kinds of distinctions. It’s all about freckles and the need for sunscreen.

For a year or two after school while waiting for my mom to get off work, I went to a house where the father carved traditional ki‘i – tiki statues – and the grandmother spoke beautiful Hawaiian with her friends under the shade of mango trees. They were patient with me – the gangly haole girl who watched with big eyes and listened to the melodious voices rolling like water over her head. Sometimes they would tell me stories about Hawaiian history, culture, legends, and traditions. I soaked them up like a sponge.

After my family moved back to Oahu, I was accepted into The Kamehameha Schools and that changed my life. I didn’t have to fight so hard to belong because everyone knew I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t. At Kamehameha I learned more about what it means to be a modern Hawaiian, and like my classmates, promised to perpetuate our culture in positive ways. Our princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop had given us the precious gift of an education; we therefore have an obligation to be her hands and pass aloha along.

I write the Niuhi Shark Saga and other stories for island kids who never see themselves or their families in popular literature. So much about Hawaii has been rewritten by Hollywood and that’s tragic. There is a need for authentic Pasifika voices to tell our stories, and I hope to add to the conversation in my small way.

When people read the words, they hear a Hawaiian voice. But when I show up at a book signing or appearance that disconnect happens again. ‘You’re Lehua? From The Kamehameha Schools? No way!’ I don’t think anyone ever gets used to being called a liar within the first few minutes of meeting a stranger, but I smile and roll with it. I’ve thought about putting my dark-haired sister’s photo on the back of my books and sending her to out into the world as Lehua, but I know that wouldn’t be pono. And for a Hawaiian, living a life that’s pono – a life in harmony with what is good, noble, and true in thought, action, and deed – is our deepest aspiration.

Like many of my classmates, I went to the mainland for college and stayed to raise a family – a family of towheads like me with looooong Hawaiian middle names. And I worry about that.

Every year I grind my teeth when the local grocery store hosts its Hawaiian days with samba music from Brazil, masks from Papua New Guinea, paper flowers from India, and calls anything with pineapple Hawaiian. In the summer neighbors are keen to throw luaus where they wear cellophane grass skirts, fake coconut bras, and serve Hawaiian haystacks – a truly vile concoction of shredded chicken, raw veggies, coconut chips, long-grained rice, and Campbell’s cream of chicken soup. About the time they bring out the limbo stick and form a conga line is when I sneak home. I know I should be more gracious, but it’s hard.

I insist my kids call flip-flops slippahs, snow cones shave ice, and understand that true aloha is colorblind. I wonder if I’m going to be the last generation in my family that remembers how Maui captured the sun, when the makahiki season starts, and why haloa is the staff of life. But then I hear about how my son called out his AP World Geography teacher about comments he found derogatory and inappropriate about Polynesians – and insisted on an apology. When the teacher balked and called him a poser, my son told his teacher to look at his middle name and offered to have his mother come in and explain real Hawaiian history to the class.

Pono.

Maybe I won’t be the last after all.