Of Kauai Hawaii and Other Hawaiian Islands -Tales and Traditions for Middle Grade Readers

On the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii, one of the Hawaiian islands, the one known as The Garden Isle, there is a treasure in the town of Hanapepe: THE TALK STORY BOOK STORE: The Westernmost Bookstore in the U.S. It has gems within.

The compiler of this list visited Kauai two times. During one visit she was gifted with the bookstore’s “author’s lei.” She also was privileged to get a signed copy of  the book Good Night, Hawaiian Moon.

Here are some books they have, and some possible others they may have, for middle grade readers. The books are for various ages within this age group. They reveal the culture plus character of this unique U.S. state and people; from the past and during the present.

This list features stories about, and information on, Kauai (the oldest Hawaiian island), as well as all of Hawaii, the people and culture, that this visitor discovered  during her trips, and after. 

A great introduction to this unique place! In a realistic fiction story, experience with young visitors to Hawaii the wonder and  awesomeness, beginning with their approach to the islands in an airplane. Page 13 introduces some of the young main characters captured in an enthusiasm anyone of any age can feel when coming to Hawaii.  

 In two books, there are true stories that were told by island inhabitants to the books’ compiler. There’s a story of two sisters, Jeslie (a young teen) and Breeze Ann (a pre-teen), who learn the hula and take part in the garden island’s children’s hula competition. There’s a tale of an award-winning hula instructor who helps keep this cultural tradition alive. Funny stories are included, such as those of the island’s wild chickens (a result of Hurricane Iniki in 1992) now being accepted as part of Kauai life; and then there are stories on children creating toys from whatever they can find, and young people growing up barefoot until they go to high school.  

An illustrated book about the movies made on the island of Kauai. It includes data about Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Carribbean, South Pacific (including two young children and the song “Tell Me Why” sung in French), and The Descendants (the story of two young girls, a pre-teen and a young teen, and their father, who inherit land that is a part of the garden island owned by their ancestors, including one who was a Hawaiian princess). Some parts of the story may be just for older readers. 

FIVE GARDENS OF KAUAI at https://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/travel/green-hawaii-garden-isle-kauai-article-1.282169  

Well-known people have come to Hawaii for fun, rest, relaxation, and respite. They have left their unique marks on the place and the people. Find out about visits by writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain; movie star Shirley Temple; singers Elvis Presley (on Kauai) and George Harrison; historical figures including aviators Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh; even U.S. First Lady Jackie Kennedy and her young children (on Kauai).

A story that is so relevant for today! 16 year old Lei (Leilani) and her dad are visiting Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Suddenly, something strange happens and they are cut off from the rest of the world! There’s only sporadic contact with the other Hawaiian islands. It will be difficult for them to get back to their home in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii – over 200 miles away, although just a half hour flight by airplane (now grounded). The only way to get back to the family is by way of pre-technology methods, across ocean waters. Can they make it through all of the perils that face them, on top of Lei’s epilepsy, and an age-old prejudice that frowns on people of mixed ethnic heritage?

Another story so relevant for today. One day at school, just before Puanani’s science project presentation, an earthquake happens; then a bigger after-shock. Soon the Kilauea volcano erupts, threatening the island where she lives. Frightened Puanani is, however, determined to channel her fear into saving sea animals as the volcano’s hot lava rushes down the mountain, over the land, toward the ocean. She and friends from a canoe club are determined to be up to the task. (Sold out at Talk Story Bookstore, but check back for new shipment.)

A boy and his family move back to his Dad’s home place: Hawaii. The boy starts right away to find out about things, and mysteries, from local Hawaiians.

 Anna and Jack find themselves on a Hawaii island, and back in time. They learn to surf the gentle waves. They’re having such fun until a hugh tidal wave appears!

 Of young Lydia, the Hawaiian princess who became the last queen (called Liliʻuokalani) of this nation of islands. She opposed the U.S. annexing the islands as a territory, then as a state; had the support of one president, but not another. She wrote the now iconic Aloha Oi (the song that happened to become Hawaii’s state song, officially or unofficially). For some lyrics (especially the chorus) in English to the song, see the Web site http://www.jenniferdsmallphd.com/MET_102_Readings/Liliuokalani%20_1878.pdf. 

Ellen Emerson White has written a story for a fictional royal diary series for young readers, but her book: Kaiulani: The People’s Princess, Hawaii 1889 is based on a real person. The last princess and last heir apparent of Hawaii is brought alive in words so like what she must have thought and spoken. A descendant of a first cousin of the first Hawaiian monarch, Kaiulani was also daughter of Likelike (sister of two Hawaiian monarchs) and Archibald Scott Cleghorn (her businessman father from Scotland who helped the monarchs with their gardens). In this diary, young Victoria Kaiulani muses about her anticipated destiny (although not her fate, not known during her childhood). In between, she enjoys moments with a visiting “Tusitala” (a teller of tales) (Scotland’s author Robert Louis Stevenson and his family). He wrote a poem for her with words that include “a little maid” “the island rose.” Alas, life would change drastically for her at ages 13 and 18. 

Marianne Cope, an early 20th century ‘first responder‘ from central New York, Marianne Cope, spent her adult life on Hawaii’s isolated island of Molokai, to help a leper colony, between 1884 and 1918. In a letter in 1883, in response to a request to help this colony of sick people, “Mother Marianne” wrote: “I am hungry for the work, I am not afraid of the disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”     

In Kimo Armitage’s THE HEALERS, two young boys are to inherit their family’s healing occupation on their Hawaiian Island home. Usually congenial, they turn against each other over something that happens, but then they must come together to solve a big problem they are given.

 THE SECRET OF THE HAWAIIAN RAINBOW by Stacey S. Kaopuiki (Hawaiian Island Concepts, 1991) / The menehune, a legendary leprechaun-like race of small people in Hawaii, chose various objects and, with the help of a kahuna (a respected person in charge), created the rainbow. The colors’ names are provided in English, Hawaiian, Japanese, and sign language.

    I SURVIVED! – SURVIVOR OF PEARL HARBOR BOMBING. 13 year old Danny has moved with his mother from New York City to Hawaii, but he misses the big city despite its hardships; but  then, on December 7 1941, as he wanders about a Hawaiian beach, the unthinkable happens!

A children’s book author who grew up in Hawaii, who was there at the time of the Pearl Harbor disaster, offers views in verse of what the people experienced then and there, and in Japan.

Ben Hansen, a young sailor is going about his chores.  Young twins Paul and Grace Yamada are going on their daily trip to the market. Then something horrible happens. Can a time traveling dog arriving in Hawaii on December 7 1941 come in time to help them all?


Although written for young children, these particular books offer something of interest to readers of all ages, including, especially, middle grade readers who are ready to start making their mark on the world; especially on the Hawaiian islands where they live. In a story based on a true news report, SAVING THE FAIRIES [who are Tern birds], features a bird family and a young person who is able to convince people to save these special birds from developers. Then, there’s a group of classmates who go on a field trip that’s a tour of a ship in Pearl Harbor, and it’s none other than the young narrator schoolgirl’s grandfather who is the tour guide! Why?! There’s also a boy who doesn’t have much paper to draw on; an activity he so likes to do; but his Grandpa soon reveals a solution that the boy can act on. Visiting Grandma [Tutu] is full of fun, but the children soon discover that this person is smarter than they think, and something is revealed about why older people on Hawaii are called “national treasures.”

One summer, thirteen-year-old Leilani Akamai and her friends, Maile and Sam, members of a Hawaiian Detective Club, set out to discover why pineapples are being stolen from a local plantation.

The author reveals the main meaning and many related meanings of the word Aloha; a word that is exclusively Hawaiian, but has influence all over the world. 

A Hawaiian alphabet told in rhyme.

England’s May Day happens to be the same day as Hawaii’s Lei Day. The customs for these days are observed in both places, with each place having roots in royalty. See instructions for lei-making that children (called keiki in Hawaii) can follow to create a lei.

Plumeria loves to play the ukelele her grandmother (her Tutu) gave her, but no one in her family usually wants to, or has time to, listen; except her dog. She hopes to take part in the island’s ukelele competition, and works hard at it, walking along the beach with her dog, but then her ukelele suddenly disappears. Did her brothers, or even her little sister, or, more likely, those not so neighborly ‘flip-flop’ sisters, take it? What can Plumeria do now!?

Here is a fictional story about a year in the life of a Nene – Hawaii’s state bird; a cousin of the Canadian Goose; with data on it, such as its endangered status.

Data on Hawaii’s sea turtles.

A family works together as they show the Ohana tradition (families getting together to accomplish something).  Poi is a root that is harvested and made into a concoction for a luau celebration held often on Hawaii. Poi can be a dip, or it can be made into muffins with added butter for a tasty treat. 

About what the traditional hula dance means, from historical times; and at the present time.

An astronaut from Hawaii; his achievements with Columbia shuttle’s first flight; his fate in the Challenger shuttle disaster.

of Barak OBama.

There is a quote young readers should note, in the chapter “LIVING ALOHA” in THE POWER OF ALOHA (a collection of sayings by Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaiian who is a U.S. Congresswoman, ran as a 2020 presidential candidate, is a military veteran who advocates “no more unnecessary regime-change wars, and advocates for the environment), among other things. This quote is by an “aunty” (a term of endearment for a respected woman). Tulsi points out that “aunty” says: “The world will turn to Hawaii as it searches for world peace, because Hawaii has the key – and that key is Aloha!” 


Carolyn M Johnson on Blogger
Carolyn M Johnson
librarian/writer / author of MG novel manuscript / published author of Net-based schooling aids for students / published author of nature-related travel articles / published poet (e.g Modern Haiku) / published puzzle for Highlights' Puzzlemania / a variety of other manuscripts in progress
1 Comment
  1. I’m always drawn to local lore and traditions. What a wonderful list!