Following the recent “Parade of Champions” in Waikiki and the tremendous success of our 2008 Olympians from Hawaii, I picked up a picture book about Duke Kahanamoku. Beautifully illustrated with oil on canvas pictures, this book portrays the struggles and accomplishments of Hawaii’s most popular athlete.

The author, Ellie Crowe, recounts how Duke had to prove himself  a worthy competitor and Olympian as an “untrained swimmer”, and captures his love of swimming, surfing and the islands.

The book is slightly oversized with near portrait sized pages. It may be a bit too large for small hands but the colors and the brushwork are engaging for young readers. Since the book is published to accommodate the large illustrations, the vast amount of vertical white space on the opposing pages is filled with text. The long paragraphs may be challenging for very young readers with short attention spans and there are portions of the story which could have been better summarized and some lengthy descriptions, but the memorable character of Duke and the overall theme of the book should make it enjoyable and inspiring to all. Overall, a great book to read aloud with youngsters, but clearly written for an older audience.