Age Appropriateness: There are some tough topics in Nanea, some of which are reflected in current events. I would definitely err on the side of maturity and recommend age 9 and older.
*Every child is different, which is why the ages I use are about Emotional Maturity, not Chronological Age, your 7-year-old may love this book, and it may hit too-close-to-home for another person’s 12-year-old.
Parent Involvement: I would strongly recommend a Parent read-along with the Nanea books to be available for questions and discussions.
BOOK TWO – Hula for the Home Front
Nanea’s second book, Hula for the Home Front is a great follow-up to the incredible first book. I found the second book to be much less intense, and likely more appropriate for younger readers.
Hula for the Home Front focuses on the continued aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, aiding the war effort and the implications of Martial Law on the Hawaiian community.
After a lot of extremely serious topics covered in the first book, Hula on the Homefront returns to more normal activities for a 9-year-old, especially the return to school. On the first day back to school after the attack, there is a new girl in class, Dixie Moreno who just moved from Maui when her dad was relocated to Wheeler Airfield. Nanea does not like Dixie. She feels like teacher Mrs Smith favors Dixie over her, and also is angry because she thinks Dixie is taking the place of Nanea’s close friend Donna. Mrs Smith asks Nanea to make Dixie feel welcomed and to be a friend to her, which likely made the situation worse. Nanea’s jealousy escalates to an in-classroom tantrum, when Nanea rips a drawing Donna was working on. Mrs Smith immediately orders Dixie and Nanea into the hall and gives Nanea a warning about her behavior. It takes Nanea several days of guilt and feeling upset about the situation at school to finally tell her grandparents what happened. In her retelling, she says “If Mrs Smith hadn’t…” and “If Dixie would have just asked me to help her, it never would have happened!” Her grandfather gently calls her on this each time, saying “So you ripping your classmate’s drawing was your teacher’s fault?” or “It was Dixie’s fault?” until Nanea finally says, “No, it was my fault.” Her grandparents then help her come up with ways to pay kokua (good deed) to Dixie to make it up to her. Her grandfather advises her that Dixie has a story just like Nanea has a story, and if she takes the time to learn what Dixie’s story is, she’ll probably understand her more.
As it turns out, Dixie does have a story. Dixie moved to Oahu with her dad when he relocated, and they moved into her Aunt’s house. Dixie shares a bedroom with 3 young cousins, whom keep Dixie up all night, every night. She is too tired to perform well at school and often sleeps through lunch. She also reveals that her mom moved to Los Angeles when Dixie was 5 to be in movies. Her mom writes her a letter once a month, but she hasn’t seen in in years. Nanea is horrified at the thought of Dixie being so separated from her mom and reflects on that topic throughout the rest of the book, which further builds her appreciation for her family. Dixie quickly becomes a new friend to Lily and Nanea.
Racially charged insults and threatening behavior continues towards Lily’s Japanese-American family, sometimes when Nanea is present. The Army won’t let Lily’s brother Gene join because he is of Japanese heritage. The biggest racial information in this book, however, is the letter that comes from the mainland US regarding the formation of the internment camps. Nanea’s family and friends are not directly affected by internment camps, it is just an Oh-by-the-way from the mainland. According to additional research, very few people were put into internment camps from Hawaii, (in fact only 1,200-1,800 out of the 157,000 people with Japanese heritage living in the islands were ever relocated to internment camps.) which explains why it is a rather glazed-over issue from Nanea’s perspective.
There is a second attack on Ohahu in Hula For the Homefront. The Japanese drop three bombs on the island in the middle of the night, waking Nanea’s family with the loud booming. However, it is very cloudy and they miss their intended targets, dropping them instead in largely uninhabited areas of the wilderness, and it becomes a bit of a non-event.
There are a couple of discussions in the book regarding the people who died at Pearl Harbor, including a neighbor who is now a pregnant widow.
Nanea and her friends are very creative and passionate about coming up with new and additional ways that they can support the war effort. Nanea founds the “Honolulu Helpers” club which plans events and supply drives to support the local soldiers.
Older brother David continues to be an amazing person and supportive big brother. He enlists in the Army after he turns 18, and ships out near the end of the book. The change is a massive one for the entire family, but the real ramifications of it are largely unseen as the book ends later the same day as he leaves.
The emotions and motivations of the characters throughout the books are truly beautifully done, I have to say the Nanea books may be some of my favorite AG books out there. I really appreciated Nanea in her more childish moments with Dixie and then getting both immediate repercussions from her teacher as well as a very well thought-out discussion around her responsibility and how to fix it with her grandparents. These are issues every child has at some point or another, and I thought it was really well handled in an educational way.
The historical aspects continue to be well researched and educational throughout the book, especially since Hawaii experienced not only the beginning of the US involvement of the war much more personally than the rest of the country, but also dealt with many more restrictions and rules and Martial Law than their mainland counterparts. It is a very interesting and educational perspective to read about World War II from, and presents many topics that can be jumping-off points for further learning and research if there is interest.
Again, Nanea’s second book is much lighter than the first one, while still tackling several tough topics, making it appropriate for a wider age group. However, without the first book, the second book wouldn’t make nearly as much sense, so I’m still going to recommend a more mature audience because of the intensity of the topics at hand.
Aftermath of Pearl Harbor Attack
Stress and Worry about issues regarding the changes because of the war
Racism against Japanese-Americans (Fairly mild)
Giving back to your community
Taking Responsibility for your actions
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