Jumping from a wave,
As shy as a spotted eel
Hiding in his cave.
Kula author Gill McBarnet has turned out another lovely creation for the keiki of Maui and beyond. Happy as a Dolphin is the latest in a long line of friendly, charmingly illustrated hardback books about all things Hawaiian.
Following in the footsteps of McBarnet’s previous best-sellers like The Goodnight Gecko, The Whale Who Wanted to be Small and The Brave Little Turtle, the book offers a warm, comforting feel that will have little ones cuddling right up on your lap.
The rhyming verses describe Hawai‘i-related similes: “I’m as friendly as a palm tree / Waving in the breeze, / And graceful as a hula dancer / Swaying arms and knees.”
McBarnet (whose first name is pronounced “Jill”) wrote many of her earlier books for her three children, Eddie, Will and Tara. If the children were in a “shark phase,” she wrote about The Shark Who Learned a Lesson, or whatever interested them at the time. But now that the older boys are grown up and on their own, McBarnet has chosen a simpler theme for Happy as a Dolphin—she said she really just wants to share her appreciation for life in Hawai‘i.
“I come from a country I love [Zimbabwe, where she was born and raised] that’s going through huge problems,” she said. “When you come from a place that’s gone through so much hardship, you want to celebrate living in a place that’s so good!”
That exuberance shines through in the smiles and outspread arms of the children she depicts. The watercolor illustrations glow softly with light and whimsy, celebrating many different aspects of island life, from vibrant coral reefs and marine life, to fragrant lei and tropical ?owers, to rodeo riders and rolling green pastures.
If you’re familiar with McBarnet’s other work, you might recognize a few illustrations in the new book that are pulled from her previous books, with new details pasted in and old details whited out. Despite this curious treatment, the pictures retain their charm.
The sturdy, bright-blue book has glossy pages that won’t tear easily in little hands. And with the expertise of a mom who has spent years putting little ones to bed, McBarnet winds up her book with a goodnight theme and a sweet painting of a mother and baby. Sweet dreams, Maui keiki!
McBarnet will read and sign copies of Happy As A Dolphin on Friday, Dec. 11, at 5 p.m. at Borders at Maui Marketplace.
4 out of 5 Shakas
Happy as a Dolphin
By Gill McBarnet
Ruwanga Trading, 2009