Author: Ruth Zavitsanos
Year published: 2011
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Number of pages: 56
Recommended age: 6+
Child Rating: ★★★★½
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★☆
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
Summary (from Amazon): Akela, THE KONA DOG, brings a smile to everyone she meets. She is sweet and caring to all those working and visiting the coffee plantation and pineapple grove.
To please her master, Akela makes her rounds on the plantation, assuring safety and offering encouragement with her gentle ways. When the plantation is threatened with closure by the banker man, Akela and her master’s older son, Keoki, join forces to enlist the help of the banker’s daughter, Penny. Akela knows something makes the girl sad. If they get her to laugh and smile, perhaps they can save the plantation. But Penny isn’t talking, and the plight of Akela’s home doesn’t look good either.
Faced with defeat and the loss of her home, Akela must use all of her bravery and instinctive abilities to bring everyone together. Can she soften their hearts in time to stop the banker man?
What it’s about: This book is about a dog named Akela who lives on a plantation in Maui. The plantation is in danger of closing and it is up to the kids to save it.
What I liked and disliked about it: I liked that this book is about Maui because we just went there and we even visited a plantation when we were there!!! I like that at the end of the book there were Hawaiian words that I already knew like “aloha” which means “hello” or “goodbye” and “mahalo” (my Dad kept saying “mahola” by accident) which means “thank you”.
The dog was ok but I like cats better probably because we have cats. I liked the dolphin and I wish that I could play with her but the cats wouldn’t like playing with the dolphin as much as Akela did.
I didn’t like that they were trying to shut down the plantation because I like pineapples, especially the ones in Maui.
My bottom line: I loved, loved the book. I would recommend it to girls and boys 6 years and older.
What it’s about: This story introduces us to Akela, the friendly Kona Dog and her human family comprised of her master, his wife Malia, and their son Keoki who run a plantation on the Hawaiian island of Maui. In order to determine if the plantation is economically viable, a banker and his family from the mainland come to visit the plantation, its owners, and the friendly Akela.
Will the beauty of the Valley Isle, the drive and determination of its owners, and the courageous and friendly Kona dog turn things around in time to save the plantation?
What I liked and disliked about it: Well, what’s not to love about a story set in Maui? Ok, I admit to being a bit biased – we were just there a few months ago AND we also visited a plantation (one of the highlights of our trip). Now, if I had seen a dog tossing a ball around with a dolphin in the ocean when we were there, I would have found that to be quite the coincidence. The author does a great job of transporting the reader to the beauty and laid-back style of Hawaii. It felt totally realistic.
The story is told from the perspective of the dog, Akela. I love stories that feature animals as the narrators. In fact, we just reviewed one in Welcome Home by Billi Tiner. I really enjoyed the interpretation of the perplexing behaviour of some of the humans – Penny in particular – by Akela. You really feel sympathy for Akela who tries so hard to win Penny over. In contrast, the relationship between Akela and her humans (e.g., Keoki and Mia) is heartwarming. I thought that the descriptions and development of these relationships were entirely compelling and engaging.
I also liked that, at the back of the book, there was a little dictionary of some of the Hawaiian words used in the book and some fun facts about Maui. I thought those were completely appropriate and they added nice touches to the book.
There is one significant difference between this story and some of the “animal-as-main-character” stories that I’ve read (e.g., Welcome Home, the Incredible Journey, Black Beauty). I felt that although the story featured Akela as the narrator, the central plot is not ABOUT Akela, per say. The plot really centres on the plantation being in danger of shutting down and the efforts of Keoki, Mia, Penny, and Gabby to stop that from happening. I felt that this was a bit of a mature theme for children. I think my kids were entertained by the book regardless, mostly because Akela is adorable and her interactions with the humans and the dolphin were interesting and amusing.
Worthy of at least a small mention is that this book does feature some illustrations (averaging 1 or 2 pictures per chapter). Even at my kids’ ages (5 & 9), it still seems to be important to them. Personally, I believe that it should be left to children’s imagination to conjure up imagery of the scenes being described in books, but still, they do seem to really appreciate the odd picture.
My bottom line: Overall, we really enjoyed reading this book. When I first heard of this author’s works, I thought it was a strange coincidence that she had written three books about dogs in three locations that are on my “must-visit” list: Maui, Greece, and Tuscany! If she can capture the essence of the cultures depicted in The Old Fortress (Greece) and The Villa Dog (Tuscany) in the same way that she did for the Kona Dog (Maui), then we’ll be picking up the next two books too! I recommend this book for both boys and girls ages 6+.
** The Kona Dog by R. Zavitsanos was provided to us free-of-charge by the author. **
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