Big Bad Chief Lino by L. Michelle Tago-Tu’itupou and illustrated by Ash Grover is an English language chapter book written to help kids connect with Samoan culture. Born and raised in American Samoa, Michelle first created this narrative as a bedtime story for her mainland-raised kids.
It’s a charming tale about four sisters with sick parents who have travel past scary Chief Lino to gather food. With echos of the classic Three Billy Goats Gruff, the sisters figure out how to face their fears to take care of their family and community. As in Samoan culture, ‘aiga is the heart of the story, and it solidly deliverers a message of compassion, interdependence, and inclusion.
Just like its original form, Big Bad Chief Lino is a perfect bedtime story. The illustrations by Ash Grover are fun and playful and help bring the characters and action to life. In her afterward, L. Michelle Tago-Tu’itupou says she plans to write more stories like this one so that island kids can see themselves in literature.
Big Bad Chief Lino by L. Michelle Tago-Tu’itupou and illustrated by Ash Grover is available in paperback from Amazon.
Telesa: The Covenant Keeper, book 1 in the Telesa Series by Lani Wendt Young is nothing but trouble. It starts out innocently enough with orphaned Leila Folger as a recent private all girls’ high school graduate leaving Washington D.C. against her grandmother’s wishes to meet her mother’s Samoan family for the first time. Born with a privileged silver spoon and raised by her recently deceased Caucasian father, it’s easy to predict the conflicts of wealth vs. modest means, American permissiveness vs. traditional Samoan conservative values, and the culture shock of everything from the food to church to going to school with boys. Lani nails all the angst of being on the cusp of womanhood perfectly and these themes are well-developed and a pleasure to read.
But Sistah Lani didn’t stop there and that’s why this book is Trouble with a capital T. After I started reading, dishes piled in the sink. Kids were late to piano and soccer and shhhhh, Mom’s working was yelled all too frequently. Dinner? Order pizza, I’m busy.
Fo’real. The Covenant Keeper takes Samoan legends of Teine Sa and Pele, who I know best as the Hawaiian goddess of volcanos, and creates a new mythology that sizzles. Hoping to discover her Samoan roots, Leila uncovers family secrets beyond anything you can imagine.
I love that Leila is a modern woman who questions her gifts with a scientific mind. She respects tradition, but isn’t afraid to blaze her own trail or shake up the status quo.
Did I mention the love triangle? Break out the fans, people! I doubt there is anything more beautiful than a young Samoan man who is kind, moral, graceful, and athletic. Sparkly vampires? Give me a break! One love song from Daniel and you won’t remember why you liked vampires or werewolves in the first place.
And that’s the key–like the Twilight series this book is written for young adults from their perspective. Leila’s powers, love, relationships, and emotions are raw, new, and overwhelming. If you can remember being 18 and in love for the first time, you’ll be highly entertained as you escape to a fantastical vision of life in Samoa for an afternoon.
Telesa: The Covenant Keeper by Lani Wendt Young is self-published and available from Amazon as an eBook and trade paperback. Don’t miss the other works in the series, I am Daniel Tahi, When Water Burns, and The Bone Bearer.
Telesa Series Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Telesa-Trilogy/146318935466086?fref=ts