Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A is for Aloha

The landscape of Hawaii is as exotic as its history and people. The picture book, A is for Aloha, written and illustrated by native Hawaiians, U'ilani Goldsberry and Tammy Yee, presents a loving introduction to one of the most-visited places on Earth. From the meaning of the word "aloha" to the plight of the state bird, author U'ilani Goldsberry answers questions that most visitors have about the lush multi-island paradise. Illustrator Tammy Yee offers her beautiful artwork of this colorful culture.

L is for Lei 
The lei is a symbol of Aloha, and can be given when greeting or parting from someone. Early Polynesian settlers introduced the lei custom to the Hawaiian Islands, when they arrived from Tahiti.  Lei were constructed of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers, and even bones and teeth of various animals. In Hawaiian tradition, these garlands were worn by ancient Hawaiians to beautify themselves and distinguish themselves from others.

Today, a hand-woven lei is an extra special gift, since it carries not only a blessing and beauty, but also represents the gift of time and care by the maker. When you give a lei, you are giving a little part of you with it.
Making a ti leaf lei.
On our recent trip to Kauai to visit friends, I enjoyed learning how to make a couple of different authentic Hawaiian lei.  After hiking around with my hostess, collecting ti leaves and bougainvillea, we set to work.  First we made a braided  ti leaf lei, traditionally worn by men and boys, at weddings and special occasions.
I'm actually securing the end of the lei between the toes of my left foot, 
while I continue twisting and adding new ti leaves to form a long cord.
Lei are worn around the neck, or head, or the brim of a hat.  Some are very intricately designed with patterns of alternating flowers and/or leaves, strung or woven delicately to create a lei that will last for days with refrigeration. After wearing them, they can be dried, to later adorn your home.
I used the lei to adorn our hotel lamps!
This is a more complicated one that my friend made.

My friend and I had also cut branches of bougainvillea for a flower lei that could decorate the brim of a hat.  I cut off each individual flower, threaded it on a special long steel lei needle, and then onto a strand of dental floss (the end of which I had securely knotted). I was especially excited to learn to make this garland, because we have an abundance of bougainvillea here in California, and I knew I could also do this at home. ("how to" link here)

Isn't it cute?
While on our visit, we learned that all over Hawaii, May 1st is a special day. If you are lucky enough to be there on that day, you will get to enjoy a holiday unique to Hawaii called "Lei Day".

Lei Day was instituted on May 1, 1928, when everyone in Honolulu was encouraged to wear a lei. Each year the festivities grew into what are now celebrations on each island with hula, music, lei making demonstrations, exhibits and lei making contests.

May Day is celebrated in almost every elementary and high school throughout the state. A Royal Court is chosen and together with the King and Queen, each Princess and Kahili Bearer represents one of the islands. They each wear the color and flowers of their respective island and by way of traditional Hawaiian song, and dancing the Hu’la, they celebrate the Hawaiian culture and beauty of the islands.

Island Colors:
Red - Hawaii
Pink - Maui
Yellow - Oahu
Purple - Kauai
Green - Molokai
Orange - Lanai
Gray - Kahoolawe
White - Niihau

Locals and tourists are invited to come and enjoy this joyful celebration.  Here are the words to “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii”, composed by Leonard and Ruth Hawk:

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii 
Garlands of flowers everywhere 
All of the colors in the rainbow 
Maidens with blossoms in their hair 
Flowers that mean we should be happy 
Throwing aside a load of care 
Oh, May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii 
May Day is happy days out there

Click here to read my post about the picture book Luka's Quilt.  (Luka and her Tutu attend a Lei Day celebration.)

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