Lei and the Fire Goddess

Penguin Workshop. Jun. 2023. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593522035.
Gr 4-6–Anna Leilani Kama’ehu, a 12-year-old girl who is part-Hawaiian and part-Polish American, finds herself in the adventure of a lifetime as she seeks to right wrongs and rediscover the strength of her Hawaiian roots. At school in Colorado, Anna struggles to balance her desire to fit in with her family obligation to remember her heritage, so, when she visits her beloved grandmother on Hawai’i Island, Anna lashes out and her disrespectful actions invite the wrath of Pele, the fire goddess. As an individual who is part-Hawaiian herself, Maunakea displays mastery in weaving Hawaiian words, mythological references, and legendary Hawaiian figures into her story in a manner that draws readers’ attention to the richness of the traditions and beauty of Hawai’i. Bits of humor sparkle throughout the story but the general tone focuses on the significance of Anna’s endeavors to connect with her Hawaiian culture and overcome obstacles to save her friend Kaipo with a seriousness that adventure readers will take to mean there is no time to waste, as each event rolls into another at a quick pace. Readers will rely heavily on Anna’s outward observations of the rich descriptions of her surroundings and often draw their own conclusions about her emotions from her interactions with figures from legend, as the story’s third-person perspective features a great deal of dialogue mixed with or leading up to the story’s action. Anna’s sullenness and uncertainty give way to a character fueled by wonder and confidence, a transformation that can be discussed in ELA classes as an example of how connections with legends and stories can enliven a sense of identity and inspire strength.
VERDICT This story belongs in the hands of middle grade readers who love adventure fiction and mythological elements, as well as those who wish to find an example of rediscovering pride in one’s culture and identity.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing