New Book News: Science and Cultural Connections

Our final two books that are celebrating their book birthdays this month are A True Princess of Hawai‘i and Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos.

 At the center of each of these stories is a rich history that has been shaped by the landscape. Today we talk with Terry Catasús Jennings and Tammy Yee on how these stories were created and where they found inspiration.

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Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos
by Terry Catasús Jennings and illustrated by Phyllis Saroff

Terry, what inspired you to write Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos?

Ten years ago, my husband and I visited friends in Southwestern Utah. The beautiful red rock mountains and canyons stole our heart. We’ve wintered there ever since. Biking and hiking with friends we can’t help but follow in the footsteps of the native civilization that lived there about a thousand years ago—the Ancient Ones. Seeing the petroglyphs and pictographs they left is a humbling experience. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find evidence of a village. In 2014, we visited a beautifully preserved site in a private ranch. As we walked through the piñon pine grove, pottery sherds crunching beneath every step, I felt a sense of connectedness. This was a place where ancient peoples had lived, but it had not been disturbed. I could imagine them by the fire, grinding pine nuts, stringing bows. I could imagine them looking out over the wide expanse below the mesa at sunset. Not long after, visiting Bryce Canyon, I learned about the Legend of the Hoodoos. The book almost wrote itself.

Greg Woodall, a local archeologist, educated me in the ways of the Ancient Ones in Southwestern Utah. Barbara Frank at Southern Utah University let us look in at the University’s collection of artifacts. Then I spent time with the elders at the Shivwits Paiute Indian Reservation making sure I portrayed the Paiute culture accurately and with respect. The story acquired new layers from the details they shared with me. The legend connected the story to the geology and they connected the legend to their daily lives. My own experience when I came to the United States as a twelve-year-old refugee from Cuba colored Vivian’s behavior. Like Vivian, I wanted to fit in. I had better things to do than worry about the traditions my family brought from Cuba. In addition to explaining the process of erosion, I hope the book is helpful to students of all cultures in explaining the value of knowing our history and customs.

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A True Princess of Hawai‘i
by Beth Greenway and illustrated by Tammy Yee

Tammy where did you find inspiration for A True Princess of Hawai‘i?

Years ago, I lived in a sleepy subdivision six miles above Hilo town on the island of Hawai’i. Many of the homes were built on the remnants of the 1881 Mauna Loa eruption featured in the book, A True Princess of Hawai’i. Evidence of the eruption was everywhere. Lava rock walls bordered tiny gardens and black pahoehoe lava peaked through the grass, ferns and ‘ōhiʻa trees. Nearby was Kaumana Cave, part of a miles-long lava tube that was formed during the eruption. It was the perfect place to raise two young sons!
Since then, I have been fascinated with the story of Princess Ruth’s intervention to save Hilo from Pele’s destruction. So it was a joy to pour through the Bishop Museum and Hawai’i State Archives for photos from the 1880s depicting the people, places, and events in this story. I was inspired, too, by the paintings of Joseph Nawahi, and also the Volcano School paintings of late 19th century artists Charles Furneaux, D. Howard Hitchcock, Titian Ramsay, and Jules Tavernier.
I hope this book will inspire you to learn more about Hawai’i and it’s rich cultural and natural history.
Learn more about these books and get educational extra for all of Arbordale’s new releases on our book homepages.
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