WOW Review: Volume XIII, Issue 3

A is for Aloha: A Hawai’i Alphabet
Written by U’ilani Goldsberry
Illustrated by Tammy Yee
Sleeping Bear Press, 2005, 36 pp
ISBN: 978-1-58536-146-5

This unique alphabet book guides children through the English alphabet with Hawaiian words, phrases, places, and objects. Each letter also includes more information on the side panels of the pages about either the word or other aspects of Hawai’i related to that letter.

The title of this book could lead Native Hawaiians to believe it is a book depicting the Hawaiian Alphabet (Piapa) which consists of 12 letters (A, E, I, O, U, He, Ke, La, Mu, Nu, Pu, We). But that is not what the book contains. Pages that include the Hawaiian alphabet do not even mention that alphabet. For example, the page for the letter “E” does not include a Hawaiian word beginning with E. These choices provide a “tourist” or Malihini (newcomer) vibe for the book rather than an authentic Native Hawaiian perspective.

The side panels of each letter page have paragraphs that provide greater detail for the letter highlighted on the page. This information ranges from tropical rainforests, to sea life, and to the Hula. The Q page talks about Hawai’i’s last reigning Monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani. While this page does talk about her overthrow, it discusses this event as being at the hands of “American Businessmen” rather than having the ownership of this atrocity placed on the United States government and the Marines. It also refers to her time in captivity in the palace. Sadly, the text states she is most known for writing the song Aloha ‘Oe instead of her role as the last monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

This book provides a very touristy version of Hawai’i and is more from an outsider’s perspective rather than the Native Hawaiian perspective one would expect based on the author. The book, unless accompanied by others, could potentially provide a misinterpretation of the Hawaiian culture and language.

One book that pairs well with A is for Aloha is ‘Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis and Kenard Pak (2020). Loomis and Pak tell what ‘Ohana means in Hawai’i by taking readers on a journey of the poi for the ‘ohana’s lū’au. The journey from harvesting the kalo to the ‘ohana’s Lū’au table demonstrates the connectedness that the Hawaiian people have with not only the land but their kalo as part of their origin story. Another book that pairs well is Aloha is… by Tammy Paikai and Rosalie Prussing (2006). The story takes readers through the different meanings of Aloha in Hawai’i. Though the literal definition of “Breath of Life” is not revealed, the book is well written and does help readers understand that Aloha does not just mean hello.

A is for Aloha: A Hawai’i Alphabet is written by Native Hawaiian U’ilani Goldsberry. She was born on the island of Maui but relocated at a young age to the island of O’ahu, where she still resides. U’ilani has written several travel books, cookbooks, and two other children’s books, The Shark Man of Hāna: O Ke Kāne Manē O Hāna (2004), and The Storm Dog of the Ko’olaus (2004).

Tammy Yee, a local born illustrator (i.e., born in Hawai’i but not of Hawaiian heritage), provides the beautiful illustrations for A is for Aloha. She has been published more than 36 times as either an author or an illustrator. Yee started her adult life as a nurse but after having her own children rediscovered her love for children’s books and drawing. Her specialties are children, animals, wildlife, conservation, multicultural, humor and science. Yee uses watercolor, acrylics and digital illustrations. For A is for Aloha, she used watercolor to display the beautiful Hawaiian scenery.

Moanikeala Kanae, University of Arizona

© 2021 by Moanikeala Kanae

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WOW Review, Volume XIII, Issue 3 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work by Moanikeala Kanae at