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Ho'onani: Hula Warrior

by Heather Gale

Other authors: Mika Song (Illustrator)

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13517202,317 (3.96)None
"An empowering celebration of identity, acceptance and Hawaiian culture based on the true story of a young girl in Hawai'i who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school. Ho'onani feels in-between. She doesn't see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She's happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho'onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho'onani has to try . . . Based on a true story, Ho'onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is--and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her. Ho'onani's story first appeared in the documentary A Place in the Middle by filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson."--… (more)
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I watched the trailer for the documentary this book is based on. Just the trailer and I got chills. I may have even teared up. This picture book doesn't quite have the power of seeing the real Ho'onani belt out a traditional hula chant. But it's worth reading and sharing. Today in the US there is greater recognition and acceptance of gender fluidity. We should also recognize that different cultures around the world have been accepting of people who are nonbinary. Ho'onani is referred to as "she" throughout the book (and I assume the author would be using her preferred pronouns) but she identifies as "in the middle" between girl and boy.

There's a refrain in the text: "Strong, sure, and steady." It describes how Ho'onani carries out the hula. It feels like a mantra for any child (or person) who is defying expectations so they can be true to themselves. ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
In this picture book based on a true story, a nonbinary youth finds her place as a hula warrior.

Hoʻonani Kamai doesn’t identify with either wahine (girl) or kāne (boy); “she prefer[s] just Hoʻonani.” (Feminine pronouns refer to Hoʻonani throughout.) One day, her teacher Kumu Hina announces auditions for a traditional hula chant the high school kāne will perform. With Kumu Hina’s encouragement, Hoʻonani auditions despite the shock of the kāne. After passing the test, she practices “until Hawai‘i’s history [becomes] a part of her.” Practice pays off, as her chant’s strength and power gain her true acceptance as their leader. Kumu Hina warns that people may get upset that a wahine is leading, but Hoʻonani faces the performance with courage. Through every challenge and doubt, Hoʻonani “[holds] her place. Strong, sure, and steady.” Her strength and bravery lead her to find her place as a hula warrior. Based on the documentary A Place in the Middle, this story brings to light the Hawaiian tradition of valuing those who are māhū, or nonbinary. Teacher and activist Kumu Hina creates a place of safety and acceptance, encouraging her students to treat others with respect. Hoʻonani’s courage to be true to herself and her place in the middle is empowering. Hawaiian words are intermixed, and Song’s illustrations are full of emotion and determination.

Hoʻonani deserves a place on any shelf. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-9)

-Kirkus Review
  CDJLibrary | Oct 5, 2023 |
Many people will have many different thoughts on this book. It's inspired by a true story--of a girl, who didn't really see herself as either boy or girl--but rather as herself. She felt like she wanted to lead the hula group (a role traditionally reserved for a man) but what would people say?

There are those who say that this is a transgender anthem. Honestly, I don't see it that way at all. I see it as a child who wants to be known for themselves (which don't we all?!) and they have found something that interests them.

I really appreciate that the family shows unconditional love and acceptance. Sure, if there are more messages that this book is trying to convey........that's still a good message. It is a message we need in today's society. Love. That's where it is at. ( )
  msgabbythelibrarian | Jun 11, 2023 |
Ho'onani feels in-between. She doesn't see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She's happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way.

When Ho'onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho'onani has to try . . .
  ohayden | Apr 5, 2022 |
So few children's picture books are set in Hawaii or feature native Hawaiian characters. Ho'onani: Hula Warrior is the story of Ho'onani Kamai, who "did not see herself as a wahine, 'girl.' Or think she was a kane, 'boy.'" Ho'onani is mahu - she has some masculine and some feminine traits, and is most comfortable in the middle. Her mother says, "She is who she is!" and her father says, "She does what she wants!" But Ho'onani's sister Kana wishes that she would conform and not stand out. However, she Ho'onani is chosen to lead a traditional hula chant in front of the school, Kana is the first to rise in a standing ovation.

An Author's Note precedes the text. A pronunciation guide for Hawaiian words (wahine and kane) would have been useful.

A Place in the Middle: aplaceinthemiddle.org (documentary) ( )
  JennyArch | Aug 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Hoʻonani’s courage to be true to herself and her place in the middle is empowering. Hawaiian words are intermixed, and Song’s illustrations are full of emotion and determination.
added by g33kgrrl | editKirkus Reviews (Jun 10, 2019)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heather Galeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Song, MikaIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To my mom, who taught us to love people for who they are - HG
To Small Grandma, who always cooked dinner - MS
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Ho'onani Kamai did not see herself as a wahine, "girl."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"An empowering celebration of identity, acceptance and Hawaiian culture based on the true story of a young girl in Hawai'i who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school. Ho'onani feels in-between. She doesn't see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She's happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho'onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho'onani has to try . . . Based on a true story, Ho'onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is--and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her. Ho'onani's story first appeared in the documentary A Place in the Middle by filmmakers Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson."--

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