After a school visit to the Bishop Museum, a young boy is inspired to learn more about the Native Hawaiian birds whose feathers were used to fashion the beautiful feathered garments he saw on display. He is especially intrigued by the tiny ʻōʻō with the bright yellow feathers, now extinct, whose name is part of his own.
So begins the boy’s journey to learn about these exquisite creatures and to understand the name his parent’s gave him, Manuʻōʻōmauloa, which means “May the ʻōʻō bird live on.”
Part storybook and part science lesson, Manu, The Boy Who Loved Birds, is a new children’s book published by U.H. Press. Written and illustrated by Caren Loebel-Fried, it is available in Hawaiian or English (the Hawaiian translation is by Blaine Namahana Tolentino). The book was made possible with help from the Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi, and joyfully blends spirituality, culture, science and technology.
Following his class trip to the museum, Manu and his father search the internet for information about native birds and listen to the recorded songs of these birds using an online library. Then, to celebrate his birthday, Manu’s parents surprise him with a trip to Hawaiʻi Island which includes a forest hike in Volcanoes National Park to watch and listen for native birds like ʻapapane and ʻōmaʻo, a visit to a conservation center dedicated to raising endangered Hawaiian birds, and a day spent volunteering with a koa reforestation project.
Deeply troubled that the ʻōʻō has been lost to this world, and unable to understand why his parents would name him after an extinct bird, Manu experiences a series of intensely powerful dreams that connect him to the ʻōʻō in a personal and profound way, ultimately enabling him to come to terms with their extinction and to understand the kaona of his name.
Entertaining and enlightening, Manu, The Boy Who Loved Birds emphasizes both Hawaiian culture and environmental conservation and is brought to life by Loebel-Fried’s colorful and whimsical block-print illustrations.
The book’s afterward includes additional information about the ʻōʻō bird, the use of feathers in Hawaiian culture (and traditional conservation measures used to ensure the birds’ protection), an illustrated glossary of the Hawaiian words used in the story, and ways that keiki and ʻohana can get involved to protect Hawaiʻi’s natural environment and habitats and help prevent the further extinction of Hawaiʻi’s remaining forest birds.
Manu, The Boy Who Loved Birds is a charming and educational book that serves as a reminder that culture and science are, and should be, complementary.
To purchase a copy go to: https://uhpress.hawaii.edu/title/manu-the-boy-who-loved-birds/. Or to learn more about the book, view the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuZVhgJDvEo