Everyone has a family, whether we were born to one, adopted by one, or made our own. And in Hawai’i, “family” is usually a much bigger affair!
“Ordinary Ohana” by Maui-born author Lee Cataluna and Oahu-born illustrator Cheyne Gallarde, exemplifies the wonderfully unique and diversified nature that are the families of the islands, and is presented in the form of a fun and entertaining young people’s book.
Young Kainoa, raised in Hawaii, tells us that he doesn’t have an ordinary family. He has an “ohana”, with a grandpa, uncle, and two cousins with the same name. We meet his grandma who he lives with, his aunties who he is related to, his aunty’s partner (or “aunty-aunty”), an aunty-cousin, half-brother, step-brother, barbecuing Uncle Boo, aunties and cousins from California, China, Philippines, and Wisconsin! This large patchwork of different people with different backgrounds, lifestyles, and ancestries is to him, well, ordinary!
But what makes this book great is that it shows “ohana” even extends beyond those to whom we might be related to. For Kainoa, family includes those who are regular parts of his life, such as those who take care of his family members, come to family celebrations, graduations, fundraisers, and sporting events. Cool, right?
Lee Cataluna says “This is a little book about a big family, making the point that family is who you choose and there’s always more at Sunday dinner, even if it’s on Saturday night. Or Wednesday night. Or whenever. In a time when families don’t fit ‘traditional’ definitions, ‘Ordinary Ohana’ assures readers that a diverse family is a normal family.”
And Cheyne’s colorful retro-like illustrations take us right into Kainoa’s ohana!
This book is a beautiful example of what makes Hawaii and the people who live here special — or as Kainoa would say, “ordinary”.
Aloha nui loa!
Ed and Cynthia Justus are the owners of The Bookstore in Hanapepe.