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Aloha Everything with Kaylin Melia George

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Kaylin Melia George shares Aloha Everything, a story celebrating a courageous young girl named Ano who learns, grows, and comes to love her island home with all her heart.

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[0:37] Introduction


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.


I am a teacher, a librarian, and a fan of kids. But if you’ve been listening of course you already know that!


Today, we come together to celebrate everything. All of life and all of us and all of the connections that intertwine us together.


This episode is coming out in May and one of the things we celebrate this month is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. My guest and I talk about that a little, as well as the need and opportunity to increase visibility of Pacific Islander storytellers in the kids book space.


Our guest today is Kaylin Melia George.


For nearly three years, Kaylin Melia George and Mae Waite have collaborated to bring the enchanting world of Aloha Everything to life. Drawing from her mother’s stories of growing up on Moloka’i, Kaylin has woven poetry and adventure into every page of the narrative. Mae has dedicated hundreds of hours to meticulously hand-painting each illustration, evoking the essence of childhood adventure and celebrating the beauty of the Hawaiian landscapes and culture she calls home.



[2:03] Book Summary


Matthew: Aloha Everything by Kaylin Melia George and Mae Waite



In this exciting adventure, you'll encounter mighty canoes crashing over ocean waves, royal hawks soaring high above the clouds, and brilliant lizard creatures jumping nimbly through forest trees! Most importantly, you'll meet a courageous young girl named Ano who learns, grows, and comes to love her island home with all her heart.


Since the day that Ano was born, her heart has been connected to her home. But, this adventurous child has a lot to learn! When Ano begins to dance hula — a storytelling dance from which carries the knowledge, history, and folklore of the Hawaiian people — Ano comes to understand the true meaning of aloha.



[2:56] Meet Our Guest: Kaylin Melia George


Kaylin: Hi, my name is Kaylin Melia George. And I actually got into becoming an author in maybe a little bit of a non-traditional way. When I was young, I talked about wanting to be an author and wanting to write children's books, and as I got older I actually found myself transitioning into the film and television space, and I became a writer, a screenwriter, and a director for documentaries and films and commercials, and then I eventually found my way back to my first love, which was trying to write for children's books. So it brings me a lot of joy to say that I am the author of a brand new children's book called Aloha Everything.


And I wanna say thank you so much for having me, Matthew, on the Children's Book Podcast. I'm really excited to be here and I really appreciate the warm welcome.


[3:50] What Does ‘Aloha’ Mean?


Matthew: Maybe you’ve heard the word “aloha” used before. What do you think it means?


Let me see if one of my favorite readers knows. Jules, have you heard the word “aloha” used before?


Julia: I have… I have heard it before.


Matthew: What does it mean?


Julia: Aloha means “Hi”, I think, in a different language.


Kaylin: One thing that I'll say is that the Hawaiian language is such a beautiful and poetic language, and there are many words in the Hawaiian language that have multiple meanings. The word “aloha”, for example, can have multiple meanings, and you can kind of think about that the way that, like a homonym works in English. It's similar. It's not exactly the same, but it's similar kind of the same in English.


Like the word “bat” for example, can mean baseball bat, or it can mean a bat that flies.

So the word aloha has a lot of different meanings and it primarily, for me, the way that I kind of root myself in it, the way that I think about it, means love. But aloha can also mean hello. It can mean goodbye. It can mean affection. It can mean, you know, a kind of caring or respect. And I like to think of it as when you say hello or goodbye to someone, you're greeting them with love and you're saying goodbye to them with love. That's the way that I like to think of it.


But aloha can mean many things. One of those things is love and I like to think about the importance of that.


The title of the book is Aloha Everything, which is a phrase that's commonly used in the islands that is meant to be a reminder to ourselves to give love and care and respect to everyone and everything around us. So that could be your friends, your family. That could also be people that you don't know very well. Or maybe even people that you do know, but they're not your favorite person, but you should still give love and care and respect to them.


That also means animals. It means plants. It means the very planet, the very earth that we live on. We have to give love and respect to our earth. It's the only one that we have and it's precious. So “aloha everything” is really a reminder to ourselves to give love, care, respect, and appreciation to everything and everyone around us.



[6:19] Hula is a Form of Storytelling


Matthew: There are lots of ways to share a story. Think about how you’ve experienced stories before. Share with a friend or grownup who’s listening with you. Or, if you’re listening alone, think the answer to yourself or share it aloud with me. I may not be able to hear you, but please know that I am always listening.


What are ways that you have had stories shared with you?


Julia: They’ve made a book. They’ve read a book. They’ve thunk of one in their head. That’s all I know so far, cuz I don’t know a lot.


Matthew: Hula is a form of storytelling. You might be able to picture this dance in your brain right now. But now, when you close your eyes and picture it, I want you to notice that all of the movements by the hula dancers are working to tell a story.


Kaylin: Hula is oftentimes viewed as a dance form, which it is a dance form. It's a kind of dance that is specific to the Hawaiian islands. And it is a kind of dance that is oftentimes accompanied by singing, chanting, or forms of music. And it is first and foremost a form of storytelling. And through the hula, through the dance form, through the stories that are told, it is a way that the Hawaiian people pass on from generation to generation, information. Information, wisdom, knowledge, stories, folklore, genealogies.


There is a vast amount of knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation within hula and through the form of hula. A I definitely would recommend for any viewers who are interested in learning more, checking out the Hula Preservation Society. They have a website and they have archives where they actually document those stories and they save and they share and, and provide those stories to be available for people.


And I think that in a lot of ways, the storytelling form of hula is something of a heartbeat of the islands. It is a way that the people over the course of many generations pass on the things that are important and things that are valuable.


[8:52] Increasing Representation for Pacific Islanders


Matthew: Kaylin grew up hearing all sorts of stories from her mom, but there was a certain kind of story that Kaylin’s mom would share that Kaylin never saw on bookshelves in her classroom or library.


Kaylin: When I was young, I always really dreamed of telling stories. And I think that a major point for me that has always been inspirational for me was the way that my mother would tell me stories growing up, sort of my bedtime stories.


I had all sorts of bedtime stories when I was young. And I, I had the Cinderellas and I had the Humpty Dumpties, the Rumplestiltskins. But I also had stories that my mom would tell me about the Hawaiian islands and the stories she would tell me about her and her and her siblings and the rest of her ohana, and how they would get into mischief on the islands when she was growing up. How they would get into mischief. How they would get out of mischief. She would tell me stories about running away from the night marchers or about catching glimpses of the white lady. These stories that were sort of folklore from the islands.


And I noticed from a pretty young age that these stories that my mom was telling me, I didn't see them on the bookshelves of classrooms, on the bookshelves of libraries. And I wondered why that was because I could see… I could see Cinderella. I could see Humpty Dumpty. I could see those stories on the bookshelves, but I never saw the stories of the islands on the bookshelves.


And when I got older, I learned that sort of what I had always in a way known was true, was in, in fact, true: that Pacific Islander stories are one of the least represented in children's literature.


So I think that that was… I think that the stories that my mother told me growing up were always really inspirational to me, and were the original inspiration for Aloha Everything.



[11:03] BREAK


[11:11] You know Mae


Matthew: The words of a picture book are important, of course. But the job of storytelling in a picture book is shared between the words and the illustrations. And the illustrations in Aloha Everything are exquisite! (that means really, really beautiful)


Kaylin: So, first of all, Mae is unbelievably talented. And she's not only unbelievably talented, of course, because of this beautiful art that she's created (I mean, I think you can see on every page how incredibly talented she is), but also because she's an unbelievably amazing collaborator. And absolutely, we worked together on every step of the process throughout the creation of this story. And we've been working together now for about three years on Aloha Everything, that's how long it's taken to create this book.


And she has been there through every step of the process. And it genuinely has been one of the greatest collaborations of my life. And the relationship that we have built, I think, is incredible. It's like Mae can almost read my mind because of how close we've become. I think that we've probably spoken every day for nearly the past three years about Aloha Everything and every single illustration, there's 18 total illustrations in the book, and every single one of those has been incredibly, lovingly, and carefully planned, sketched, created.


[12:44] Read Aloud


Matthew: I’ll be sure to include some sample illustrations on my website, but why don’t we give Kaylin an opportunity to bring you into the story with her words. We’ll start on the very first page of the book.



Kaylin: On this page we see a young girl who is a baby and she was born on the islands. And she's surrounded by the flora and the fauna and by all the animals that have come to meet her and to greet her and to say hello. And this is an excerpt from that page.


In the hush of the night

with the moon still aglow,

a small baby was born

where the koa trees grow,


where lehua blooms bright

where the mo‘o give chase

where the ocean spray’s kiss

meets the sky’s close embrace.


With her curls kapa soft,

breath like breadfruit so sweet,

this dear child evermore

shared the island’s heartbeat.



[13:41] Learning Through Research


Matthew: Kaylin and Mae both did a lot of research in making Aloha Everything. Sometimes that research looked like talking to people and hearing their stories. Other times it meant looking in books or websites. But often it meant learning new things.


Kaylin: I absolutely learned so much while I was creating this book because, like I said, I started with research and the research involved having a lot of conversations. And this was conversations with cultural advisors. And this was conversations with members of the Hula Preservation Society. With hula kumu, who are hula teachers. And with my own family. And it's remarkable to me the things that I learned, not only about the islands, not only about the history of the Hawaiian people, but also about my own family and about myself throughout the creation of this book.


So it's something that I am eternally grateful for and I'm, I'm so, so glad and thankful for the people that have helped me on this journey to learn so much. Even if nobody ever learned anything from the book, I certainly learned a lot from the book. So that… I think that was a beautiful part of the process.



[14:57] A Message From Kaylin Melia George


Matthew: It is nearly that time: when we say goodbye for now to Kaylin. I am grateful to her for teaching us a new phrase: “aloha everything”. And I’m grateful to learn that “aloha everything” means to give love and care and respect to everyone and everything around us. And I am in awe of the work Kaylin and Mae put into making this book not only one that invites us in and takes us to a different location, but also one that gives readers from the Pacific Islands, who may seldom see themselves reflected in a book, a chance for exactly that!


As I prepare to see a library full of children tomorrow morning, and as you prepare for school and time with your classmates, Kaylin shared the following message:


Kaylin: I would love, if you are able, to bring the message to them and let them know that we all should remember from time to time the importance of aloha everything, the importance of giving love and care and respect to everything and everyone around us. And that also includes ourselves giving love to yourself and self-love and self-care and self-respect.


And I think that that's something that I've learned a lot through the course of this process and something that I would love for every child to feel. I hope that we can all remember to aloha everything. Aloha our friends, our family, our our earth. Our plants and animals and also ourselves.



[16:42] Closing


Matthew: The Children’s Book Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner.


Follow the show wherever podcasts are found, and leave us a rating or review when you do. That helps us out a whole lot because it helps the show get discovered by and recommended to new listeners.


Kaylin? Where can listeners find you?


Kaylin: I'm available on Instagram if anyone wants to message me or I have a website and if anyone wanted to send a message to me, they can send a message to alohaeverything@mythify.com is the email address.


For readers who are interested in learning more about the islands. I would definitely recommend checking out the Hula Preservation Society's website. They have a lot of incredible information, like I've noted, about all of those stories that are, that we should still share and that we should still remember.


For anyone who is interested in buying a book or in checking out the book, it's currently available for pre-order on Kickstarter and it's gonna be available through June.

Matthew: Visit matthewcwinner.com for a full transcript of this episode plus some questions that you can use as you think about this episode.


You can also reach out and let me know if you’ve seen the hula being performed before. Or let me know if you’ve visited the Hula Preservation Society's website and what you noticed while looking through the website.


Write to me or send me a message at matthewmakespods@gmail.com. That’s M-A-T-T-H-E-W M-A-K-E-S P-O-D-S at gmail dot com.


Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (https://stebs.design/).


Our music is by Podington Bear.


Podcast hosting by Libsyn.


You can support the show and buy me a coffee at www.matthewcwinner.com.


We are a proud member of Kids Listen, the best place to discover the best in kids podcasts. Learn more at kidslisten.org.


Fellow teachers and librarians, want a way to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities? In The Reading Culture podcast, Beanstack co-founder Jordan Bookey hosts conversations that dive into beloved authors' personal journeys and insights into motivating young people to read. It’s truly such a great show! Check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack. Available wherever podcasts are found.


Be well. And read on.



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