Book Review – The Musubi Man

TAKAYAMA, Sandi and Pat Hall (illustrator). The Musubi Man: Hawai‘i’s Gingerbread Man. Honolulu, Hawai‘i: Bess Press (P.O. Box 22388, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96823), 1996. [24] pp. ISBN 1-57306-053-4 (hc), $10.95. Illus.

Imagine preparing a musubi, a rice ball wrapped in dried seaweed (nori), only to have it come alive and run away from you. That’s what happens to a lady in The Musubi Man: Hawai‘i’s Gingerbread Man.

The musubi man comes alive, winks “one yellow takuan eye,” and runs away. An elderly couple, poi dog, mynah bird, and mongoose chase after him, and the musubi man says in pidgin “Run, run, fast as you can! You no can catch me, I’m one musubi man!” He runs until he reaches the ocean and a hungry surfer, and the story ends unexpectedly.

This creative local parody of the fairy tale “The Gingerbread Man” begins with the typical “once upon a time” opener. The repetition in the text (e.g. the musubi man’s gingerbread-man-like taunts) provides a consistent rhythm throughout the book, making the story fun to read aloud to children.

This delightful and fun 24-page trade book presents the local Hawai‘i culture to readers with a glossary containing Japanese and local Hawai‘i words and the authentic use of Hawai‘i Creole Language: “No way I going stop for you!” taunts the Musubi Man.

Using watercolors, colored pencils, and markers; Pat Hall skillfully illustrates Hawai‘i’s animals and natural habitat.

Hall, an artist based in Hawai‘i, has illustrated other local children’s books, including Curious Kimo, The Kona-Town Musicians, and coloring books featuring Hawai‘i’s animals. Hall also has her artworks exhibited around Hawai‘i and has won several awards for her works.

The Musubi Man has sold over 25,000 copies since its release in 2006 and has two sequels: The Musubi Man’s New Friend and The Musubi Baby. The Hawai‘i Theatre for Youth performed an adaptation of The Musubi Man by playwright Lee Cataluna.

Author Sandi Takayama, a school librarian in Kapolei, Hawai‘i, has adapted other fairy tales for Hawaii, including Sumorella: A Hawai‘i Cinderella Story and The Prince and the Li Hing Mui.

Readers ages six to eight will enjoy The Musubi Man, a classic in Hawai‘i children literature.


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