cover image Lei and the Fire Goddess

Lei and the Fire Goddess

Malia Maunakea. Penguin Workshop, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-5935-2203-5

Twelve-year-old Anna Leilani Kama‘ehu, who is part white, usually loves spending her summers with her grandmother, Tu¯tu¯, in Volcano, a rainforest village in Hawaii. But her Boulder, Colo., classmates have started mocking her whenever she brings up Hawaiian stories such as Pele the Fire Goddess, prompting feelings of shame about her heritage. Now Anna isn’t looking forward to her trip at all; disinterested in listening to more stories about her culture, she instead wants to “come and visit like a tourist.” When Anna questions Pele’s existence, Tu¯tu¯ warns her that she’d best show respect, since she’s “on Pele’s land now.” Still disbelieving, Anna picks a sacred ‘o¯hi‘a lehua flower, a blasphemous act, resulting in Pele’s triggering earthquakes, sinkholes, and volcanic eruptions across the island and sending a giant hawk to kidnap Anna’s best friend, Kaipo. Accompanied by Ilikea, a talking bat, and Makani, the breeze, Anna must win back the goddess’s favor to save Kaipo and the rest of Hawaii. Scenes peppered with pidgin dialect, Hawaiian words, and descriptions of snacks such as li hing mui gummi bears establish a keen sense of place. Anna feels too Hawaiian to fit in at school, but too haole, or white, to feel at home in Hawaii—a struggle that aptly center themes of identity and connection in Maunakea’s energetic, adventuresome debut. Ages 8–12. Agent: Patrice Caldwell, New Leaf Literary. (June)