Review by Joseph Bean Maui Weekly June 17 2004
Childrens books often dont have many words. This one uses fewer than 500 well chosen words. In those few words it retells with simple grace a collection of tales about Hina the mother of the Hawaiian people.
The story-compiled from legends found in Martha Beckwiths classic Hawaiian Mythology-tells us that Hina was born in an under-sea kingdom. Her parents charged one of her many brothers with watching over her but he didnt do the chore well. So he was banished to a deeper part of the sea by their parents. He left a gift of starfish and a crescent moon for his sister. His grandfather took pity on him however and opened a crevice in the sea floor through which the brother crawled to the Hawaiian Islands. The chief he met there asked him to go back and bring Hina to Hawaii. As Hina stepped out of the sea her starfish and crescent floated up into the sky. The chief and Hina fell in love and had many children-the people of Hawaii. Later Hina created the rainbow and the clouds then became the figure known to Western civilization as the man in the moon. To this day she makes kapa bark cloth on the moon and watches over her children.
Of course Michael Nordenstroms telling is sweeter and far more poetic. The story is charming but the illustrations are glorious. Each two-page spread is a collage. The author-illustrator describes the process of making the pictures this way: The illustrations are a mix of acrylic and water-color paints which I apply to large sheets of paper. After drawing each picture I cut and arrange the pieces as if they were a puzzle. I aim to weave a mixture of colors and patterns into each work. That humble description falls far short of suggesting the beauty he achieves with his painted cutouts.
Nordstroms previous book Pele and the Rivers of Fire won a Hawaii Publishers Association Pai award for its illustrations and made him a finalist for the Utah Childrens Book Award. Hina and the Sea of Stars is at least as good.
If there is any bad news at all about this book it is that households without children may not notice it. That would be sad. If a childs heart is more easily delighted thats no reason for adults not to expose themselves to such a pleasurable book.
Review by 9-year-old Emma Reed Wee Ones Magazine December 1 2004
Folktales are fun because they let you see what other cultures are like. Hina is the mother of the Hawaiian people. This book explains how Hina made the stars and the moon. She came out of the sea and fell in love with a chief and they created the Hawaiian people. This is an interesting book and I learned a lot of Hawaiian words. There is a glossary in the back. I like the illustrations too because they are bright and colorful. They also have a lot of detail. I liked this book a lot and want to visit Hawaii to learn more!