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Matthew Kaopio, the author of Hawaiian Family Album, is an extraordinarily talented mouth-brush painter. His illustrations intrigued me enough to pick up his book, but as good  as they are, they aren’t the heart and soul of his book.

His book is classic talk story—kids bugging a busy grandma to tell them family stories from her youth. In the eleven stories presented here, Grandma passes down Hawaiian culture and traditions and teaches the kids how to find their way through many of life’s difficulties.

One of my favorites, Kāne-o-kekai: Man of the Sea, tells the story of a woman’s fall into the sea and her rescue by a great white shark. It reinforces other opinions I heard as a child that sharks were to be respected, but not necessarily feared, and that ancestors are always ready to help.

The stories are funny, scary, and heartwarming, the perfect length for just before bedtime reading for kids. If you’re looking for some authentic Hawaiian culture, this book’s a winner.

Hawaiian Family Album by Mathew Kaopio is published by Mutual Publishing and is available as a trade paperback from the publisher, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

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