Girl of the Year 2018: Luciana out of This World

Published: 2018. Author: Erin Teagan. Illustrator: Suzanne LaGasa


Luci is excited to be able to visit her cousins in Chile, and introduce them to her new sister Izzy. She can hardly wait to settle into her old routines with her extended family. But when she arrives, she finds that her cousins have bonded more with each other and are too busy for their usual antics. They don't cut her out completely, but they have their own private jokes that she doesn't get because she lives so far away, and one evening they're all going to spend the night at a friend's house without her; that sort of thing. So when Claire shows up with an opportunity to spend 36 hours in the Atacama Desert observing real astronaut training, Luci decides to go. She's still not quite sold on Claire's trustworthiness, but she figures seeing her dream job in person instead of feeling ignored by her cousins is worth the risk.

The astronaut training is incredible. But Luci is still a pre-teen, and when she impulsively tries to help with some samples, she accidentally contaminates them. The astronauts have to head back out to the sample site again, leaving Luci and Claire on their own in the desert habitat (because, as so often happens, Claire's father had to leave to attend to business). Luci is still trying to make the best of things (the astronauts-in-training were very understanding), but Claire is in a funk, missing her dad.

Suddenly, none of that seems important. There's a huge earthquake. Luci ends up trapped under a piece of furniture. Claire helps her out, but has a head wound herself. And there's a fire in part of the habitat. The girls are able to put it out and keep themselves safe during the hours it takes for the astronauts-in-training and Claire's father to return.

Claire and her father take Luci home before heading to a hospital to get Claire evaluated (at one point Luci had a hurt arm but that kinda just...doesn't go anywhere). Luci learns that her grandmother's house, so full of memories, is damaged beyond repair. In talking with one of her cousins about how to help their grandmother, Luci realizes she never bothered to ask her cousins what was happening in their lives. She was too busy talking about her own. That's why she felt left out. Working together, the cousins set up a family party with sentimental things from their grandmother's house, creating new memories together.


Dedicated to Kaelyn, Olivia, Kaia, and Addison.

Luci is awakened by doves cooing. When I lived in Honolulu, zebra doves were the first thing I heard every morning.

Luci and Izzy are bilingual, speaking Spanish at home and English in public.

Head wounds always bleed a lot because of how many blood vessels are in the head. While you should get big cuts looked at, it might not be as bad as it looks.

It's perfectly fine, and even recommended, to sleep if you're concussed. Provided you can hold a conversation and have no other neurological symptoms like sudden trouble walking or dilated pupils, it's not dangerous to sleep. You need cognitive rest as well as physical rest too; don't strain your brain. (Of course, seek medical attention when you can.)

It might be too late for Claire to get stitches. You typically have six to eight hours after an injury. Some injuries that need further treatment can get stitches up to 24 hours later.

Chile had an 8.8 earthquake for real, in 2010. More than 500 people died.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded was in Chile. May 22, 1960, southern Chile was hit with a 9.5 earthquake.


Girl of the Year 2018: Luciana Braving the Deep

Published: 2018. Author: Erin Teagan. Illustrator: Suzanne LaGasa


Luci is about to embark on another adventure. She and Ella are two of six kids selected for a youth astronaut training camp on the Atlantic coast. Like the last time she was preparing for being the first girl on Mars, her sister Izzy will be dealing with her own things. Izzy will be undergoing heart surgery to correct her birth defect. Luci's parents promise to keep her posted while she's away at her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

At the camp, Luci and Ella learn that the six kids will be competing to see which three of them will spend time in an underwater habitat known as Cetus. They will need to show that they can perform certain tasks and demonstrate that they can safely dive and work with scuba gear. Luci is sure that one participant, Claire, will be a shoe-in. Her father is a famous entrepreneur, and has done work to help astronauts on the International Space Station. Claire tells Luci how she's gone with her father to various exotic locations and been able to try many skills most people never have a chance to. Luci is impressed, and Ella is even a bit star-struck.

The veneer wears off quickly for Luci. She notices holes in Claire's stories, like how she'll say "I did X! Well, almost. I got to see someone else do it." Ella is having trouble with part of the swimming skills test, and Claire offers to help her improve. But when Claire is timing Ella (she has to tread water for a set time), Claire drops the stopwatch, invalidating the time. Luci thinks it was on purpose, to knock Ella out of the competition. Ella thinks Luci didn't learn her lesson about being suspicious from Space Camp, but Luci just can't shake the feeling that something's wrong. During another skills test, Claire leaves Luci stranded underwater. Luci is able to get out, but she could have drowned. She's understandably scared and mad. Claire tries to play it off as an accident (which was a bad enough mistake), but she soon admits she was so wrapped up thinking only of herself that she was able to justify her decision. She also admits to dropping the stopwatch on purpose.

The camp directors take Claire out of the running for Cetus, but don't send her home. For one, they want everyone to learn about teamwork when you can't just leave, like in space. And also...Claire's dad is away and no one else can pick her up. Claire does apologize, but no one blames the other kids for being a bit distant from her. In the end, Luci and Ella are chosen to go down to Cetus along with a boy named Thomas. As she enters the airlock below the water, Luci ends up having a panic attack. Claire redeems herself some by talking her through it (over a radio). Luci is able to complete the underwater mission, learning while she's down there that Izzy's surgery was a success.


Dedicated to Meredith, Mikaela, Sofia, and Molly.

Claire's father, Lance Jacobs, seems to be an expy of Elon Musk, at least in terms of innovation. I don't know enough about his personal life to know how he might be as a father. Lance Jacobs is usually too busy to spend time with her daughter, and since Claire's mother is dead, she gets shuttled off to nannies and camps a lot.

I wish there had been more about Luci and her family getting to know Izzy after the adoption.

Here is a website for spotting the International Space Station: NASA.


Girl of the Year 2018: Luciana

Published: 2018. Author: Erin Teagan. Illustrator: Suzanne LaGasa


Eleven-year-old Luciana "Luci" Vega is a girl with a mission: she wants to be the first girl on Mars ("girl" specifically, not woman or person). She's just won a scholarship to Space Camp, and couldn't be more excited. She's intimidated at first, because several of her camp mates know each other well--they're members of the same extended family. They also did the preparatory reading and some have been to camp before, so they have a better idea of what to expect than Luci does.

But Luci catches on quickly, determined to get the most out of her experience. She settles in nicely, aside from rubbing one girl, Ella, the wrong way. Ella gets called out by her cousins for being too much of a stickler. However, when Luci is made leader of a team and seriously screws up (she suspects another team of sabotage and ends up disqualifying her team), she has to admit Ella may have had a point about thinking things through and not being impulsive. Luci rallies her team, which ends up still creating a submission that would have done well in the competition, and helping the team that she suspected of sabotage. Her team gets recognition for creativity and for accepting responsibility and making amends.

In Luci's defense, she has reason to be distracted. Her parents are working to adopt a toddler from their home country of Chile, Isadora. While Luci's at Space Camp, Izzy goes missing from the orphanage. Luci's grandmother in Chile is able to locate her--in a hospital being evaluated for a heart defect. Things get pretty tense with Luci and her parents not knowing the severity of the defect or the toddler's prognosis. But as Space Camp draws to a close, they learn that Izzy's heart defect is serious, but not so much that they can't continue with the adoption. Luci is a big sister!


Dedicated to Jaeda.

Luci and her family live in Virginia. Space Camp is in Houston, TX.

Luci and her best friend Raelyn were playing with hair dye and put a purple streak in Luci's hair. She says that her parents don't mind her creativity, but prefer "less permanent" changes. Granted, I don't do much with hair dye, but how permanent is purple in  dark brown or black hair? It would be pretty simply to get it dark again, right? The hair itself might be damaged from the bleaching required for the purple to show up, but a streak of purple doesn't seem that big of a deal to me. Then again, her parents don't care that much so I'm probably overthinking this.

Speaking of Raelyn, she's not really present in any of Luci's books, since they all take place away from her home.

Luci gets to sample some dehydrated astronaut food. I remember getting it at the Seattle Science Center. The ice cream was good; the scrambled eggs were awful.

There are a lot of good charities for children with heart conditions. One I especially like is Little Hats Big Hearts, which distributes hats to newborns to help people learn about the signs and impacts of congenital heart defects.


Chances and Changes: My Journey with Molly

Published in 2016; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik

"My Journey" books

These are choose-your-own adventure books written from a first person perspective. Just for ease, I'm going to always pick the first option when I come them, but I'll try to mention the other possible endings. Since the reader is meant to insert herself into the story, most of the the main characters (a modern-day pre-teen) aren't named. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I've been using the author's first name, but in this book we find out the main character's name is Margaret in the first sentence.


Margaret is excited about the foal her best friend's horse is about to have, and wants to help Bea pick the perfect name. Bea gently points out how difficult it is for Margaret to ever make up her mind, which she has to admit is true. And it's not long before she's faced with another choice: she's offered a scholarship to an eight-week summer music camp. It's an incredible opportunity, but it would mean missing out on time helping raise the foal with Bea (who is homeschooled, unlike Margaret who goes to public school; they don't see each other often). The foal is born the next day. Bea thinks Margaret should stay home, but Margaret's grandmother thinks she should go to camp. Margaret walks into the woods to think. By an abandoned staircase, she spies a pin, a gold bar with three red stones and one white one. She picks it up and rubs some dirt off the white stone, and is suddenly somewhere else.

Margaret is at a summer camp. She finds out because almost immediately upon her arrival in the past, a girl named Molly introduces herself. When Molly dashes off to find her friend Linda (she assumes Margaret is a new camper, and wants to help her feel welcomed), Margaret rubs the white stone again and is back in the present. Realizing how it works, she takes advantage of this opportunity to try something new and returns to the camp. There she meets Linda, and in the course of conversation realizes she's in the past (President Truman, World War II ending, President Roosevelt having died recently). Molly and Linda explain there's an empty bed in their tent which Margaret is welcome to. They assume her trunk is delayed, and plan to raid the lost and found for a swimsuit, pajamas, and other things Margaret will need. On the way to the tent, Molly's dad drives up with something she left in the car. Margaret can tell there's something amiss about the relationship between Molly and her dad, but she's not sure what. Molly and Linda tell Margaret about camp, and how soon they can either go on a two-night hike or stay at the main camp to enjoy activities.

First choice: hike or stay

The girls prepare for the hike, and get to know each other a little bit as they trek through the woods. Molly brings up how her dad has suggested a summer fishing trip, carrying on a tradition he had with his dad. Molly is undecided, in part because of her fear of drowning and also because it would interfere with being in the school band. Margaret sympathizes; she has a similar tough decision between disappointing her grandmother (staying with the foal) or Bea (music camp). Linda brings up last summer's camp and how even though she and Molly were on opposing sides for the Color War and Molly dumped worms on her, she got past it. She's sure that whatever Molly and Margaret decided, the people who love them will understand and not be mad. Margaret decides Linda must be right. Now she has to decide whether return home or stay the night in the woods.

Second choice: home or woods

Margaret makes an excuse to head back to camp and home, thanking Molly and Linda for the friendship they've shown her. She returns to the present, ready to tell Bea that she's going to music camp. She knows Bea will understand, maybe not right away, but in time.

And since that was super short, here's what can happen if Margaret stays to camp overnight in the woods:

The next morning, everyone gets ready to continue the hike. Just before they set out, Margaret drops her pin! She frantically searches while Molly and Linda wait with her. She finds it, but it's taken just long enough that they're not sure whether everyone else took the uphill trail or the downhill trail (why they couldn't yell ahead for them to wait I don't know). Molly thinks they should go up; Linda down. And they have to decide fast: it's just started to pour.

Next choice: up or down

As the girls trudge uphill, Molly talks about how while she's thrilled her father is home safe, it's difficult to adjust to his being home after he was gone for three years. As they talk, Margaret thinks of a way for Molly to still be in the band. Her father suggested the fishing trip so they could spend time together; what if he helps with the band? That way Molly can do what she has her heart set on and she gets time with her dad. Suddenly, they hear something moving through the woods.

Next choice: find out what the noise is, or run

It's a cow! Margaret knows quite a bit about cows; Bea lives on a farm. She deduces that the cow is lost, and they should help guide it home. They get it to a nearby farm, and the farmer is grateful. He gives them directions back to camp, calls to let the people in charge know the girls are safe, and gives them some ice cream made from the cow's milk as thanks. Soon after, Margaret returns to the present, and goes to tell Bea that she's staying for the summer to help raise the foal.


Dedicated to Beverly Dawson and Barbara Peck Rothrock, with gratitude for [their] help.

This book seems to be set the summer after Molly Saves the Day, but Molly had already overcome her fear of drowning then. And it's definitely set after Molly Marches On; that was the first time at summer camp (possibly the same camp as Molly Saves the Day). In that one, they're not too young for the hike, Molly and Susan just get lost because Molly thinks she knows more than she does. And where is Susan, anyway? She's not even mentioned.

Margaret lives with her grandmother at a ranger station. Her parents died when she was young. The cause isn't mentioned, and it seems she was old enough that she remembers them at least a little.

The foal is named Moon Shadow.

Linda mentions V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day, the anniversary of which is tomorrow (May 8).

The first twenty-three pages are without choices, just setting up the story. But with every scene change, it's "Turn to page 4/8/13/etc." which are all just the next pages. I don't get why the editors didn't just save those directions for when the readers makes a decision and has to pick page 43 or 58, for example.

There are so many fish-related puns.

Not only did Europe have to ration more than the US during WWII, the rationing lasted for several years after while the land recovered from the fighting.

Two of the possible endings are online. If I were to buy a copy of this book (I got it from the library; I pretty much only buy the main story books) I'd print out that part in case the website is unavailable in the future or I wanted to read it somewhere without internet access.

Other possible endings: staying at camp and helping Molly practice for the swimming competition can help Molly overcome her fears about drowning and inadvertently spark some jealousy in Linda which can be resolved or run away from using time travel; staying helps Margaret get over her own jealous feelings toward her grandmother's new hired hand; admitting homesickness to Molly and Linda prompts them to show her the horses on the neighboring (no pun intended) farm which reminds her more about the decision she needs to make in the present, she either chooses raising the foal and her grandmother understands not wanting to miss out and her not being ready to be away for so long, or she chooses music camp and Bea understands and promises to send daily updates on Moon Shadow; finding a raspberry bush at camp leads to Margaret learning about rationing; running from what turns out to be a cow results in the girls being on a hilltop that Margaret recognizes, and from there she leads them to the pond the other hikers were heading to; going downhill leads to them finding an injured dog; treating its wounds and getting it unstuck leads to them waiting in one spot to be found, after which Margaret decides to stay home to raise the foal; staying with dog means they discover it belongs to a young German POW; alerting the POW guards to him teaches Margaret about responsibility and forgiveness and she decides to go to music camp, which Bea understands; letting the POW sneak back in unnoticed (in the other choice he just gets extra KP and restrictions, nothing awful) also teaches her about forgiveness and getting to know people before judging them which inspires her to be kinder to the hired hand.


The Legend of the Shark Goddess

Published in 2018; author Erin Falligant; illustrators David Roth and Julie Kolesova


There are so many rules to follow in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks. It's hard, but Nanea does her best. She wants the war to be over as soon as possible, so that her Army brother can be safe and life can go back to normal. So it's especially frustrating when a boy named Mano starts hanging around her grandparents' shop bragging about flaunting the rules. Nanea thinks he's stealing things to sell on the black market. But her grandparents keep finding jobs for him! How can the help someone so shady?

The only person who seems to be on Nanea's side about Mano is her friend Lily. Everyone else is bending over backward to accommodate Mano, but Lily shares Nanea's suspicions. When trying to find out more about him after her grandfather's special watch and Lily's father's knife goes missing, the girls discover that Lily's own brother Gene may be hiding something.

Shortly after, Nanea's dog Mele runs off and Mano finds him. Nanea wonders if she might have misjudged him. She doubts it, but thinking back on when little things have gone missing, she also remembers that the soldier staying with her grandparents, nicknamed Jinx, was around too. And her own sister seems to be hiding something. Mary Lou, Gene, Jinx, Mano...are any of them behind the missing watch and knife (and other items)? The plot thickens when she sees Mano and Jinx trade a paper bag for the watch!

Nanea confronts Jinx. He explains that Mano knows someone who could fix the broken watch band, and the watch is being returned. He also mentions taking Gene to some top-secret job at Pearl Harbor. Nanea is relieved someone is being honest, but she has even more questions now, like whether Gene's job is even legal. One is resolved when she finds out that her sister has been writing to a boy she knows who enlisted--her secrecy is due to her long-distance relationship.

 And soon other secrets come out. Gene can't tell anyone the specifics of his job, but it's honest work, and he's being well-compensated. Mano isn't stealing; he's been trading with Nanea's grandparents for food. He's the oldest of several boys living together in a bomb shelter, boys whose parents are dead or being held at internment camps. He catches fresh fish for the market, and his other boasts are exaggerations. Even Lily's father finds his knife: Lily's toddler brother hid it. Nanea learns to have more trust and less suspicion.

Inside Nanea's World

The Red Hill facility still exists today. During World War II, it was critical and top-secret. While still important today, it's staffed by only four people. Hawaii residents know about it, but access is restricted  .


Dedicated to "my brother, born on Pearl Harbor Day, and my grandfather, who bravely fought in the war."

The titular Legend of the Shark Goddess is a reference to a story Nanea's grandmother tells her, which she thinks of when dealing with Mano. It's really not that big a part of the plot, but I guess the title sounded cool?

It's little surprise that Nanea's grandfather thought he heard zebra doves. They're all over Oahu!

Um...oops. Nanea is thinking about banana splits, and that she feels like "a banana, split in two." She's half Hawaiian. "Banana" is sometimes used as a derogatory term for an Asian or Pacific Islander who "acts white" (yellow outside, white inside). Aside from being a clunky metaphor, it's kinda awkward to have her describe herself as a banana.

Why wouldn't Nanea's grandparents ever mention, even in passing, about the fish? "Oh, Mano's here with his catch." "Mano is such a good fisherman; maybe he'd be good at some odd jobs around the neighborhood." Especially when Nanea expresses her concern to her grandparents--they didn't need to be so cagey about it.


Menace at Mammoth Cave

Published in 2018; author Mary Casanova; illustrators David Roth and Julie Kolesova


Kit and her Aunt Millie are visiting Kit's older brother Charlie where he works at Mammoth Springs (he's in the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the programs started to ease the effects of the Depression). Part of Charlie's job includes tearing down houses sold to the government, because they're now part of the Mammoth Caves park property thanks to eminent domain. Some of the former owners were less than pleased. Kit sees a burned building, which Charlie says was the work of an arsonist. Charlie also finds a venomous copperhead snake hidden in his footlocker, clearly on purpose. It's evident someone is angry with the CCC.

One family impacted by Charlie's work is that of Aunt Millie's friend, Pearl Thatcher. She and her family, which includes her frail ninety-three-year-old mother-in-law, have three weeks to leave the farm they've been living on for decades, which is so well-run and and self-sufficient that's it's been Depression-proof. Kit learns more about the soon-to-be-former residents of the land through Benny, who's been giving tours of the caves his whole life but will soon be forced to move. It's especially hard for his family, because they've been renting their land rather than owning so they won't get any money when the leave, and because Benny's great-great-grandfather, a slave, was integral in discovering the cave system. During a (segregated) church service, one member delivers an impassioned speech about resisting the government's mandate to move. It seems there are a lot of angry people who might take their frustrations out on the CCC workers.

Kit gets a chance to visit Charlie one day, and just as she's talking with him about her worries that he might be in danger, a work truck goes up in flames. A few nights later, there's a fire in the woods near the Thatchers' house, threatening to burn it or their neighbors' houses down. Kit splits her time between working the fireman brigade effort and watching over the elderly Mrs. Thatcher (her granddaughter, Dorothy Ann, watches her at other times). While with Mrs. Thatcher, Kit discovers a sack of matches and turpentine-soaked rags hidden behind some curtains--the arsonist's tools. There's no one to inform though; everyone's away fighting the fire. Kit eventually falls asleep. She rouses in the morning, still alone, and finds Mrs. Thatcher has passed away in the night.

A park ranger arrives just as the family finds out about their matriarch's passing, just in time to hear Dorothy Ann confess to start last night's fire: Mrs. Thatcher had made her promise to let her be able to die in the home where she was born. Dorothy started only the one fire to try to delay her family's eviction, not realizing how it would spread and how dangerous it could be. The ranger informs the family that their church (on park grounds) will be staying, so the grandmother can be buried in its cemetery...and that as penance, Dorothy Ann is to knit warm wool socks for every worker. As another person confessed to the first fire, he knows she wasn't responsible. Relieved to not have a prison sentence, she agrees. Her parents also let her know that they've found a farm a few miles away to move to.

As Kit gets ready to leave, she realizes how the snake got into Charlie's footlocker: he left his wet boots outside to dry in the sun, the snake crawled in, and he brought his boots inside. In turn, Charlie tells Kit the incident with the truck was a mechanical failure, not sabotage. With the mystery solved, Kit and Aunt Millie board the train back to Cincinnati--with a kitten each, a gift from their new friends in Kentucky.

Inside Kit's World

The Civilian Conservation Corps was hugely important to the development of our national parks system, building trails and lodges, maintaining the environment, and making sure the lands would be preserved for future generations to enjoy.


Dedicated to Winnie and Vivian, "and all who pursue life with courage and curiosity."

We watched a neighbors' house while they went on a vacation that include a trip to Mammoth Caves. They gave me a piece of iron pyrite (fools' gold) from there.

I like how Kit isn't quite used to the more formal way people in the South speak, reminding herself to say "sir" and "ma'am" and feeling more comfortable asking people to call her by her first name rather than using honorifics. It's an accurate representation of how two people with different versions of "polite" interact.

Venomous animals inject their toxins purposely, typically by biting. Poison is toxin that has to be touched or ingested (e.g.; touching a poison dart frog or eating hemlock). While an animal can be both, like the slow loris which rubs toxins secreted from its elbows on its fur (poisonous) and licks the toxins to deliver a deadly bite (venomous), venomous and poisonous are not synonymous.

Calico cats are almost always female.

Kit keeps excusing Charlie's working for the CCC to the residents as "doing as he's told" or "doing his job." In about ten years, "following orders" isn't going to be a good excuse...

Dorothy Ann is 16 and her grandmother is 93. That's a big age gap, 77 years. Her brother is a little older. My grandmothers were 51 and 65 years older than I, and I wasn't the first grandchild on either side.

While it's true that elderly people can get confusion from dementia, senility, and other age-related memory problems, a sudden onset can also be caused by a urinary tract infection.

There really is a church with a cemetery in Mammoth Caves National Park.

The CCC didn't just work on national parks--there's a bench at St. Edward State Park (in Kirkland, WA) engraved with the CCC's logo.


Prints in the Sand: My Journey with Nanea

Published in 2016; author Erin Falligant with Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik; author photos by Reverie Photography and Fran Balter Photography

"My Journey" books

These are choose-your-own adventure books written from a first person perspective. Just for ease, I'm going to always pick the first option when I come them, but I'll try to mention the other possible endings. Since the reader is meant to insert herself into the story, the main character (a modern-day pre-teen) isn't named. Since it would sound to weird to me to summarize the story as, "and then (Historical Characters) and I saw a..." I've been using the author's first name, in this case, Erin.


Erin is feeling lonely. Six months ago, her family moved to the island of Oahu when her father was stationed at a military base near Honolulu. And now he’s deployed to Iraq. Despite the beauty of the island and the fun things to do there, Erin can’t help but miss her friends back in California—and she guesses that as soon as she makes new friends here, her father will PCS to another duty stationary n far away.

A barking dog distracts her, and Erin gives chase. She loves dogs, but her family can’t  have one right now. She can see that the dog has an owner, but figures she can at least pet it. While following th dog, she happens upon a puka  necklace, and realizes that putting it on transports her to 1942, taking it off returns her to the present, with no time lost. She puts on the necklace. In 1942, Erin sees another dog running into the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (which rally is very close to the swimming area of Waikiki Beach). She learns that the dog, Mele, belongs to a girl her age named Nanea. Nanea invites Erin to watch her and Mele hula, or come a meeting of the Honolulu Helpers Club.

First choice: hula or helpers

Erin isn’t comfortable dancing herself, but she enjoys the performance Nanea and her sister-and dog!- put on. Afterward, Nanea invites Erin over. Erin steps out to pretend to ask permission from her sitter, who she explains is on the beach (true...in the present day). Erin has some trouble wrapping her head around how great a time she has with Nanea while there are so many signs of World War II—not just the Honolulu Helpers, but rationing, blackouts, curfews, and Nanea’s own brother having just joined the Army. After breakfast the next morning, Nanea suggests she could teach Erin to hula, or they could work in the victory garden.

Next choice: hula lessons or gardening

Erin is game for learning new things. Nanea asks whether they should hula about Pele or make up their own story,

Next choice: Pele or a new story

While discussing Pele, Erin mentions she’s never seen a volcano (that she realizes—you can see some extinct ones from Waikiki Beach). So Nanea, Lily, and Lily’s dad take her on a hike up Punchbowl, another extinct volcano. After the hike and learning more about the legend of Pele, Erin receives hula lessons from Nanea’s grandmother. Feeling so welcomed by Nanea and her family and friends opens Erin up to the idea of settling in more in her new home. And hearing how Nanea and Lily miss Donna inspires Erin to write to her friend Kayla.

It’s about this time Erin realizes she has to get back to the present. She says goodbye to her new friends, knowing they’ll assume she was suddenly shipped away like Donna. Back in the present, Erin talks with her Hawaiian sitter, ready to accept her welcoming spirit. They make plans to hike one of the extinction volcanoes soon.


Dedicated to “Tera, Stacey, and Shelley—my own ‘three kittens’ who ha e been with me every step of the way.”

Erin has a watch, which seems unusual for a preteeen these days. But I understand it would be hard for her to explain a cell phone in 1942.

Erin wishes she could adopt a dog. When I lived in Hawaii, I’d visit the Honolulu Humane Society to pet cats and walk dogs. Our apartment didn’t allow pets, so I got my fix that way. Most of the dogs were chihuahua mixes or pit bull mixes, and if I understood correctly, some military housing didn’t allow the latter. But every time I walked a dog, it would be adopted the next time I went in.

Other possible endings: going to the Honolulu Helpers meeting can lead to spending the night with Nanea at Lily’s and then babysitting kids while their moms take a first aid class which is interrupted by an air raid, all of which helps Erin understand why her family couldn’t go with her dad when he went to Iraq; babysitting can also make Erin miss her younger twin brothers and return she home ready to carpe diem; helping with a book drive can lead to finding a picture of a little girl with her dad with Anzu Sato, a Japanese name, in the back, which uncovers the secret that a girl in the Honolulu Helpers calling herself Audrey is actually Japanese and her father is in an internment camp, so Erin, Nanea, and Lily help Audrey/Anzu make him a care package; staying a second night in 1942 and seeing a Sherlock Holmes movie, then finding origami’s cranes with secret messages can end with Erin and Nanea thinking a visiting soldier is a spy (he’s not, just has trouble sleeping; the cranes are from Lily), or learning how to make origami, both options teaching Erin not to make assumptions and not to be scared of people different from her.


Hula for the Home Front

Published 2017, author Kirby Larson, illustrators David Roth and Julie Kolesova

School is finally back in session, almost two full months after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Nanea is looking forward to doing something normal, but class is held in a different room because of fire damage, and Donna isn't there. In her place is Dixie, a new student who just moved from Maui after her father was sent to work at an airfield on Oahu. Although Dixie doesn't mean to, she gets on Nanea's nerves. She's sitting in Donna's chair, being picked for class jobs that would normally be Nanea's, and making posters (to advertise buying war stamps) like she's the new class artist--Lily's unofficial title. Nanea tries to help Dixie feel welcome, but she's too irrationally angry at Dixie, who represents all the change that's happened since the war started. Nanea vents her frustrations to her grandmother while working her Saturday shift at her grandparents' store (one of her Christmas gifts was a store apron, because she was finally old enough to help). Her grandmother reminds Nanea that everyone has a story, and if she learns Dixie's, maybe she can get to know her and get along with her. At school on Monday, Nanea and Lily invite Dixie to sit with them. They learn that she's trying to be grateful to her aunt for letting her and her dad stay with her family despite the cramped quarters with her rambunctious cousins, and that her mother got an acting opportunity when Dixie was five,  moved to Hollywood, and Dixie hasn't seen her since. Nanea and Lily endeavor to help Dixie feel welcome, in school, around the neighborhood, and in their newly-formed Honolulu Helpers club, dedicated to the war effort.
Back home, Papa is around more, mostly working only his usual graveyard shift instead of multiple shifts. Davis continues volunteering, and mentions wanting to enlist when he turns 18 in June (his twenty-first birthday will be the day before D-Day). And when he invites a lieutenant to dinner, the military officer sees how Nanea's trained Mele to dance and brings up the topic of Dogs for Defense, a program through which people more or less enlist their dogs (one of Nanea's classmates recently volunteered his dog for the program). David and Mele, both in the military? The war is getting too close to home...and it was already nearly on her doorstep.

Although Nanea doesn't want her brother or dog in the military, she's happy to help the soldiers and sailors when she can. Her Honolulu Helpers club make sure Valentine cards for the young men so far from home, and puts on a party for St. Patrick's Day. It's there that she sees a solider she's met before at a USO event, nicknamed Tennessee. He mentions how fun it was to see Mele then, when the dog snuck in, and says he wishes Nanea had been able to bring him. That gives Nanea and her grandmother an idea: at the next USO event later that month, Nanea debuts Mele’s hula skills. The service members love it, and line up to pet Mele after the show, most of them missing their own dogs back home. Just after Nanea's birthday (starting with a treasure hunt and ending with a picnic on the beach), she gets a letter from Tennessee, who's shipping out. He thanks her for letting him see Mele, and mentions how much the dog boosted his spirits. Nanea is inspired to find a way to get Mele to see more service members and help them, too. After all, if her class won the war stamp drive, there's got to be a way do it.
Nanea gets her chance at David's birthday luau, which Lt. Gregory attends. He acknowledges that he is a strong supporter of Dogs for Defense, but the decision has to be Nanea's, not his. Plus, Mele has been wonderful entertaining people at USO events. When Nanea brings up her idea--that she could arrange times to bring Mele to the hospital but stay outside with him--Lt. Gregory agrees it sounds brilliant, and promises to ask about it.

The very next day at breakfast, just after news of victory at the Battle of Midway, David announces that he's enlisted and will ship out in three weeks. Mom and Papa are scared for him, but also proud, and Mary Lou tries to be brave. But Nanea is furious that her brother would put himself in harm'sway. A good talk and a good cry with her grandmothers calms her down. Three weeks later, Nanea and her family see David off, sailing to the mainland for boot camp in Mississippi. Nanea makes him  a lei to throw overboard.

Once the ship is out of sight, Nanea, Lily, and Dixie give Mele a good scrub, and then get dressed for a hula performance: Lt. Gregory has secured a spot in the hospital for them to show off the Hula Dog and let the wounded play with Mele. Nanea is grateful for the distraction.

Inside Nanea's World

After the Battle of Midway, the threat of attack was lessened in Hawaii, but martial law remained in effect. Hawaii's record-setting volunteer effort did too: the island terry raised more funds for war bonds (in part through war stamp programs) than any of the states. When the military lifted its ban on people of Japanese descent enlist, it hoped for at least 1,500 recruits. It got almost 10,000.


For "Ryan, the fifth blossom in my grandma lei."

Donna sends (and receives) several letters of the course of the book. One mentions that two friends at her new school age no longer there...because they'd been sent to a Japanese internment camp.

Lily's older brother Gene tries to enlist, but isn't allowed due to his Japanese heritage. He joins the Varsity Victory Volunteers, a real group of young college students who wanted to help any way they could. They built roads, hauled stones, and did other manual labor for the war effort.

Lily's father, a fisherman, has his boat confiscated by the government, effectively putting him out of work. Her mother is able to get a job through a neighbor.

David's birthday luau includes salmon. When I lived in Hawaii, it was just about impossible to find salmon that wasn't farm-raised, and even that was rare. I must have been looking in the wrong stores. Or the wrong decade.

At one point, Honolulu's Roosevelt High School is bombed. I used to live less than a mile from there; my oldest attended the elementary school across the street.

Speaking of Japanese bombs, Papa's family is in Oregon. Japan firebombed parts of the Pacific Northwest during Wold War II. Most of it was too damp for the boys to do much damage, but one landed near a picnicking family, killing them.

By the end of the book, Dixie and her father have been invited to stay with Donna's father in they home. Donna will be able to get more done without her little cousins keeping her up late and getting into her school things, and Donna's dad won't be so lonely (Nanea's family has him come to dinner every Thursday, but he still has to go home to an empty house).