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.