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From the Mountains to the Sea: Early Hawaiian Life
by Julie Steward Williams, Illustrations by Robin Koko Rakomo
178 pages, Kamehameha Schools Press
Review by Teighlor Edie
A new book, From the Mountains to the Sea tells the story of Havaiiki and it's people who left their homes in Tahiti to become Hawaiians. Stunningly illustrated by Robin Yoko Racoma, Williams' book details Hawaiian civilization. Sections on the daily work of producing food tells of ko, ki, kalo and kukui; sugar cane, taro, and ti leaf, which were all staples of island agriculture. The sweet potato or 'uala and the ulu were important food crops as well.
Na Ali'i ruled the islands with total authority. Each island was ruled by an ali'i nui, such as Kamehameha I. Districts were ruled by ali'i moku and communities or ahupua'a by the ali'i ahupua'a. Since island life was dangerous and fragile, the ali'i were entrusted to watch over the well-being of those they ruled.
Chiefs wore feather capes and tattoos to indicate their rank. The story tells of na kahuna or the spiritual leaders, healers, and experts who advised the ali'i and cured illnesses, read omens in the skies and solved daily problems.
The 'ohana or family, the working class, the craftsmen and the nature spirits are all described in this book. The culture of the Hawaiians was filled with spirituality, magic, beautiful craftsmanship, dancing (hula), laws (kapu) and a unique mana or spirit that guided the ancients who were isolated for centuries. The rare beauty of the Hawaiian people is celebrated in this new book. This resource, which has been praised by experts, including Herb Kane, the famous Hawaiian historical artist and author. Herb was quoted as saying, "This outstanding work fills a need previously not met-the need to equip our children, Hawai'i's people of the future, with understanding and empathy towards Hawai'i's people of the past."
I am thirteen and I enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend it for children, teens and even adults interested in learning about Hawai'i's ancient native people, kapoe kahiko, as they are called. Even though I am growing up in Hawai'i, I didn't understand the rich and varied life that came before us in the Hawaiian Islands.