Dance for the Land

Overview

Kate misses the window seat in her house in California, her favorite place in the whole world. She misses the wonderful dog-smell of her Labrador retriever, Boggs. She misses her white oak canopy bed, pancakes on Saturday mornings, and ballet classes with her best friend, Sara. But most of all, Kate misses feeling like she belongs.

When her father decides the Kahele family should move to Hawai'i, all Kate can think about is the life she is leaving behind. As her father studies ...

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Overview

Kate misses the window seat in her house in California, her favorite place in the whole world. She misses the wonderful dog-smell of her Labrador retriever, Boggs. She misses her white oak canopy bed, pancakes on Saturday mornings, and ballet classes with her best friend, Sara. But most of all, Kate misses feeling like she belongs.

When her father decides the Kahele family should move to Hawai'i, all Kate can think about is the life she is leaving behind. As her father studies for the state Bar exam so he can work for a Hawaiian rights organization and her dark-skinned brother, David, happily hits the beaches with his surfer friends, Kate is tormented by her classmates for being a hapa haole, or "half-white" girl, because of her freckled skin and sun-streaked hair, inherited from her mother. It seems everyone is telling her to "toughen up" and "fight back," but Hawai'i is supposed to be the land of aloha, of love, welcome, and homecoming, and never before has Kate had to dfend her white heritage.

But then she discovers hula dancing, and gradually learns to feel the rhythms of the land, the moon, and the palm trees. And Kathryn Maluhia Kahele begins to feel the other half of her heritage and, finally the meaning ofher middle name: peace.

When twelve-year-old Kate, who is half-white, moves to Hawaii with her brother and father, she becomes a victim of racial prejudice but also learns the meaning of her middle name.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In McLaren's (Inside the Walls of Troy) novel set in Hawaii, political issues overshadow the protagonist's journey to self-discovery. When Kate's father decides that the family should move to his native Hawaii, Kate must leave California, a chance at the lead in The Nutcracker ballet, her friends, her dog and the beautiful house designed by her mother, who died several years ago. Arriving in Honolulu, the 12-year-old girl feels uncomfortable around her father's relatives, reticent Aunt Alohi and foul-tempered Uncle Kimo, and confused by their "Pidgin" language. Kate's brother, who inherited their father's Hawaiian features, seems to belong here, but Kate has her mother's blonde hair and freckled face, and her classmates consequently ostracize her, calling her "haole" (white), a label given to the enemy of Hawaiian sovereignty. McLaren does a commendable job of presenting and explaining Hawaiian politics via the discourse between Uncle Kimo, who fights for a completely sovereign state, and Kate's lawyer father, who finds a more reasonable model in the Lakota nation with rights within the state of Montana. But these explanations often strain credibility and interrupt the flow of the novel (e.g., when Kate refers to "Hawaiians," her Uncle Kimo "explode[s],... `we kanaka maoli!' "; her father then says to Kate, "It means `The real people....' But the term `Hawaiian' is also acceptable"). As Kate learns about her heritage and her family's struggles, she gains appreciation for the Islands and its people. She joins a hula dance troupe and finds a way to express her tie to her father's homeland. Like the titular metaphor, the politics are often trumpeted, rather than woven into the narrative; ultimately, the banter between the two brothers upstages the changes in Kate. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Kate Kahele's blonde mother is dead and her Hawaiian lawyer father has decided to return to Hawaii to fight for the restoration of native rights, taking pale, freckle-faced Kate and her dark-skinned brother David with him. David thrives. He's already friends with his native cousins, but Kate is a haole, a white person, in a school full of mixed Asians, and the class bully Chad is after her every day. Worse, Kate doesn't like her Hawaiian relatives--the Aunties who never say anything, Uncle Kimo who fights constantly with her father over plans to march on Iolani Palace. In non-competitive Hawaii, Kate begins at length to see that important things are communicated through silence--women earn their importance through understanding and quiet example rather than by explanations or giving orders. This theme serves as a powerful antidote to the frenzy and noise of American competition. A dancer, Kate dances with her friend Mahana's native troupe, a halau taught by Kumu Kalama, who teaches her the dance movements, but the meaning, she says, "can't be taught." "How can I ever learn it?" asks Kate. "It will come. You just have to feel it." The expressive emotional power of the hula as well as its deep connection to the land do finally come to Kate. As she grows to understand her Aunties' silences, Kate learns new ways of loving and being loved, the joys of cooperating instead of competing with her new friends. Middle-grade readers, too, will grow attuned to the subtle power of feelings expressed in silence and to the gestures that Kate's relatives use to express their love. A much-needed antidote to American mainland noise, Dance for the Land is an important book. 2000, Atheneum Books for YoungReaders, Ages 10 to 14, $16.00. Reviewer: Nancy Tilly —Children's Literature
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8There is trouble in paradise for 12-year-old Kate. She resents having to move to Hawaii, leaving behind her best friend, dog, ballet troupe, and her picture-perfect home designed by her deceased mother. Although she and her 16-year-old brother are both half Hawaiian, dark-skinned David resembles her father and seems to blend in immediately. Fair Kate, who inherited her mothers looks, suddenly faces the racism in the Hawaiian culture that plagued her brother for years on the mainland. Tormented by classmates, fearful of her outspoken uncle, and unable to communicate her feelings to her father, the girl is miserable. While hiding from classroom bullies in the school library, she discovers classmates practicing traditional hula dances and is drawn in by the music and graceful movement. By tales end, she has made new friends, and her uncle has become her number one cheerleader and reunited her with her beloved dog. This is an eye-opening look at a foreign culture right here in the United States that is struggling for its native rights and to redress past wrongs. Many readers are probably unaware of a radical movement to separate Hawaii from the States, and the author is knowledgeable about these issues. However, the worthy exploration into the cause and effects of reverse discrimination is diminished by the facile ending, and its unfortunate that theres no glossary for the Hawaiian words.Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
McLaren (Inside the Walls of Troy, 1996, etc.) writes of a girl's wish to understand her new surroundings, and to be understood by those who love her.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689823930
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Pages: 152
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.53 (h) x 0.77 (d)

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