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).


Growing up with Aloha

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

Nearly-ten-year-old Alice Nanea Mitchell lives in Honolulu with her older siblings, fifteen-year-old Mary Lou and seventeen-year-old David, and their parents Mom and Papa. Like the children, Mom I was born and raised on the island of Oahu. She's Hawaiian. Papa is of European descent and originally from Beaverton, OR. Nanea loves living at such a crossroads of cultures, fully embracing all th influences that have come to the Hawaiian islands.

One day in November, Nanea and her two best friends Lily and Donna notice a contest: complete four tasks by December 15 to be entered to win a new bike. The tasks are turn tragedy into triumph, make a difference in the community, do a good deed for a stranger, and show appreciation for family. Nanea wants to win--not only would she love the bike, winning it by helping people would show her family she's growing up, despite being the youngest. Throughout November, she finishes the third and fourth tasks, but learns she needs to plan a better so she's not going one step forward and two steps back, like when she was working on something to help her dad not miss his family in Oregon...but forgot to feed her dog Mele, and Mele ate the Thanksgiving turkey.

Soon it's December. Of 1941. Sunday, December 7--a day that will live in infamy.

Nanea had gotten up early to make her family a special breakfast, to make up for the turkey. But any reader who knows this part of history knows her family won't be noticing the food. She hears a plane, and is confused to see that it's flying so low she can make out the Japanese flag on the tail. Her family wakes up, and Papa switches on the radio. There's a call for all military personnel to report to their
posts. Papa's not military, but he is a civilian contractor so he rushes to the shipyard. As he leaves, the radio announcer confirms that this is no drill. This is an enemy attack.

David leaves too, for the VFW hall, as his Boy Scout leader had instructed the scouts to do in emergencies. Nanea, Mom, and Mary Lou listen tensely to the radio, until it cuts out. Static on every channel. Gradually, they learn what's happening, as the attack ends and people come out of their homes (although David doesn't come back until the next night, and only to sleep, since the hospital needs help; and Papa hasn't been heard from at all). Japanese war planes bombed Pearl Harbor, a military target due to the battleships docked there, and also attacked some of the surrounding area. Nanea's school is partially destroyed, and neighbors have bullet holes in their homes and cars. (This was something that radially struck me when I visited Pearl Harbor in 2015: of the 2,403 casualties, 49 were civilians. Two were infants.)

As if the terror of the attacks and the dread of future aggression wasn't enough, many Japanese people are suddenly detained on suspicion of helping coordinate the attack, including Lily's father. Martial law is declared, and everyone of Japanese descent gets the short end of the stick: earlier curfew, no radios, arrests of adult men--regardless of whether they're US citizens, like Lily's father. Lily tries to carry on as normal, and helps Nanea look for Mele, who has been missing since the attack. But she's hurting at the injustice.

As the week goes on, Nanea keeps busy making food for the aid workers, worrying about Lily, andlooking for Mele. Finally, after a week, Papa comes home (I was wondering if he'd be a casualty, but I guess that would have been potentially disrespectful to the actual people who died, and too dark--although he does allude to the men trapped on the sunken Arizona who died). He's only home for some sleep though, and soon has to head back out. Mary Lou and Mom are busy volunteering, so it falls to Nanea to help her grandparents inventory their store--a grown up thing to do, but this isn't the way Nanea wanted to show she was mature. It does give her an idea of how to show Lily that she cares, though. She'll make cookies Lily can bring to her father. On the way to Lily's, Nanea is distracted by Mele! He's trapped in a hole, and by the time she gets him out, fed, and clean, she's two hours late to see Lily. Lily is angry, and Nanea leaves without explaining. But a neighbor helps Nanea see that it's best to fix a problem right away, and when Nanea returns to Lily's with Mele, Loy understands. Donna shows up with food too, and Lily says that she appreciates knowing her friends care about her.

On Christmas Day, there are few decorations, due to the blackout rules and the shipment of Christmas trees being sent back to the mainland. Nanea has the bright idea to paint thumbtacks and decorate them with a lei to make a little tree. Her father and brother are able to join the celebration as well. A week later, Nanea and Mary Lou dance in a hula recital for the USO. Mele manages to sneak out and follow Nanea, but her embarrassment quickly fades when she sees how happy the soldiers and sailors are to do something so normal as petting a dog.

A few days later, Donna has bad news: all nonessential civilians are being sent away, back to San Francisco. It will be easier to keep the permanent residents, military personnel, and contractors safe and fed with fewer people on the islands. Nanea tries to think of ways to show that Donna is essential, even giving up the first day Papa has off in three weeks to work with Donna and some other friends to help with childcare during a Frist Aid training. Nanea comes up with other ways to hav Donna help, including a bottle drive (they can be  sterilized to hold donated blood) that gets a newspaper write up. But it's not enough, and Donna and her mother are sent back to San Francisco in late January. As her boat departs, Donna tosses the lei Nanea and Lily made her into the ocean. Legend says that if your lei makes it back to the island's shore, you will too.

Inside Nanea's World

The historical section talks about the restrictive curfew enforced in Hawaii following the Pearl Harbor attacks, and he life changed for the islands' residents. But it didn't charge their willingness to help in whatever way they could.


Dedicated to "Clio, my mo'opuna wahine, with much aloha."

Nanea and Mary Lou practice a song with kala'au and pu'ili sticks--my oldest went to school in Honolulu when we lived there, and she used the same sticks at the end of the school year recital.

Nanea's siblings have Hawaiian middle names like she does (Noelani and Kekoa). Their grandmother tends to use the, especially during hula lessons. Speaking of hula lessons, David works at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which has free hula lessons on a weekly basis. My older two kids took them sometimes (the third wasn't born then).

Matson, the shipping company that was supposed to bring Christmas trees, is still around. We used to get our things to and from Hawaii when we moved there temporarily.

Nanea's mom commments that she's glad David is too young to enlist. However, he's 17, and the war won't be over until 1945. And there's a draft coming.

Possible connections to Molly, the original World War II representative: Donna and Linda share some letters, Lily is what Susan means (it's for the Hebrew name Susana), and Mary Lou and her friends knit socks for the military personnel.


Summer Camp, Friends for Life

Released to Amazon Prime in 2017

Z is attending a summer STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) camp In California with Paz, but they are confused by the head counselor's insistence that they not be allowed the use of any technology until they get in touch with nature and each other. Another girl, Drew, is completely on board with the idea, but Z is more skeptical--and Paz outright hates it.

A younger counselor, Jordan, encourages them to look to nature for inspiration. After all, watching birds inspired people to build planes. Jordan is amazing, but the head counselor denies there's any worker by that name. When Z and Paz look at the picture Jordan took of the three of them together using a camp computer, Jordan's not in the picture...but Drew photobombed them. The person they talked to wasn't there, but someone else was and they never heard or saw her?

When the two friends are trying to find a rational explanation, they're startled by a sound which turns out Jordan's unique charm bracelet hanging on their door and blowing in the wind. They also run in Drew, and realize that she wants to be friends. They put the search for Jordan on hold to start again on the right foot with Drew, and then the trio investigate the mystery.

They find a flip book, presumably from Jordan, filled with cryptic drawings. But because of each girl's talents and interests, they can each interepret parts, and together they can decipher it. They end following glowing footprints into the forest, where the charm bracelet alerts them to a set of keys, which unlocks a gate leading to Jordan, and her cabin full of STEAM wonders. It turns out that Jordan is the goddaughter of the head counselor, whose mother founded the camp and died last year. Jordan didn't think she could take on her godmother's mother's role, so she didn't come back to camp. Except that it called her, and she couldn't resist checking things out. Z and Paz stood out to her as people she should reach out to, so she created a mystery to show them how their talents don't rely on technology. The three girls convince Jordan to come to camp for real, telling her she’ll be able to honor the legacy of the camp founder easily. The movie ends with the campers blending nature and technology to learn more about the world.


One girl smashes a HUGE bug in the opening scene. She pulls away what looks like a wad of chewing gum after she slaps what sounded like a mosquito. Ew.

 Speaking of bugs, how did Z find fireflies in California? They don't live on that side of the Rockies.

There's some really nice animation in parts, like Z's flip book movie.

The captions spell Paz as Paws.

A quote is displayed just before the end credits: "Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live." Dr. Mae Jamison, NASA

Z: Zoe Manarel
Paz: Alison Fernandez
Drew: Lauren Lindsey Donzis
Rae: Camryn Manheim
Jordan: Monique Green
Camper 1: Chloe Beth Jones
Camper 2: Mia Moore


Contemporary Character 2017: Z on Location

Published 2017, author J. J. Howard, book design by Suzanne LaGage, photos by April Messinger Photography and Michael Frost


Z is excited for summer: her favorite vlogger, Winter Costello, has issued a challenge for her followers to to post about their summer adventures. And does Z ever have an adventure! She’s going to VidCon in San Francisco, where she’ll meet some of her far-flung friends, and on the way...Her mom is traveling to some locations in Washington and California to interview different people in the tech business to find out how they’re integrating new technologies into people’s everyday lives (e.g.; an AI robot to help people with autism learn about social interaction, and a company make smart device that connect to each other). She’s letting Z come to help film the interviews!

The first interview is fantastic. Z’s stoked for the next one, but gets distracted by her phone alerts. Her mom tries to get through to her to live in the moment rather than just thinking of what wil make a good post, but it’s hard for Z to not be connected to the internet. As the interviews progress, Z gets more and more distracted until her mom finally calls in one of her students to meet them and take over. Z wants to prove herself, but screws up even worse: she sends a picture from a pen interview with a virtual reality company to her friends back in Seattle...who post the proprietary information on social media. The company finds out and ban them from coming back and revokes permission for the interview to be shown. Z feels awful, and knows she has to regain her mom’s trust. Acting on the student’s advice, she starts small, taking care of tasks she knows she can do, even it’s just something simple like making breakfast. She helps with the interviews rather than trying to make them flashier for posting. She also only uses her phone when strictly necessary, like arranging when to meet her friends (part of this was being grounded from the phone, but Z is prepared to restrict herself on her own). By the time they reach VidCon, Z’s mom is impressed with her efforts and gives her another chance when the student comes down with food poisoning. Specifically, Z gets to film the interview with Winter Costello! Winter offers to grant Z a short interview for her vlog but Z has to decline—just before meeting with her, Z ran into some fans who asked her for an interview, and staying any longer would mean missing that and letting her fans down. Z wants to stay true to her word.

Sticking with the original plan was definitely the right choice. Her fans bring some more fans along, and Z’s friends are there. It’s amazing for Z to see how many people enjoy her work. Even better, Winter shows up and features Z on her vlog! Doing something because it was the right thing rather it being the cool thing led to something even better.


The author dedicates the book to her mother.

I love that Z sends her videos to her parents for approval before posting them online. It’s a good idea for kids the ages of this book’s target audience. (She still uses her full name though, which I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my kids do).

Good research, author! Z’s friends at home send her pictures of a wallaroo at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. It does indeed have wallaroos.