Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Tundra. Oct. 2019. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735264496.
PreS-Gr 2–Readers are introduced to Hawaiian culture and nonbinary identities in this picture book based on the documentary A Place in the Middle. Though the author uses she/her pronouns throughout the book, Ho’onani doesn’t think of herself as a girl or boy—she’s just Ho’onani, and her refusal to conform frustrates her older sister Kana. When plans to perform a traditional hula chant are announced at Ho’onani’s school, she decides to audition, even though historically only boys performed the chant. Not only is she selected to be a part of the chant, she’s given the role of leader—with the support of the boys who will perform with her. Though Kana is initially unsupportive, her appearance at the final performance wraps things up with a happy ending. Song’s illustrations are boldly drawn, with thick lines and angular features.
VERDICT An affirming story of a gender identity little represented in children’s literature. This book is an excellent purchase for libraries looking to expand their LGBTQ+ offerings.

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