Taking a new look at Duke
By Jolie Jean Cotton
Special to The Advertiser
By Jolie Jean Cotton
"SURFER OF THE CENTURY: THE LIFE OF DUKE KAHANAMOKU" by Ellie Crowe and Richard Waldrep; Lee and Low Books, ages 7-12, $18.95.
Just out from New York publishers Lee and Low Books is Honolulu writer Ellie Crowe's "Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku."
The book's journey began years ago when Crowe wrote "Duke's Olympic Feet," about the surfing legend as a young man. She sent the manuscript to Lee and Low, but with no response, she went with Honolulu publisher Island Heritage, which produced "a beautiful book distributed mainly in Hawai'i," said Crowe.
Two years later, she got an e-mail from Lee and Low editor-in-chief Louise May, saying wanted to publish the manuscript. "She apologized for the late reply," said Crowe. "Apparently the manuscript had been buried on her desk."
Crowe sent May a copy of her book, and the editor had an idea. "Louise May thought that Duke's story would be of interest to readers nationally and asked if I'd be interested in writing a full biography of his life for young readers," said Crowe. "Well, of course!"
May's hunch that the Mainland was overdue for a book about Kahanamoku was right. "Surfer of the Century" is earning national attention, including a coveted star review from School Library Journal.
Crowe first discovered Kahanamoku in Australia. "I lived a few miles from Freshwater Beach, Sydney, where Duke wowed the Aussies by carving a surfboard from a plank and riding the waves," Crowe said. "Most Australians had never seen anyone ride a surfboard before. Freshwater headland, overlooking the ocean, has a bronze statue of Duke on his board, and that first board is in a museum at the clubhouse, insured for $1 million."
"Here in Hawai'i, it was also special for me to see Duke, and I fell in love with his smiling face in photographs at Duke's Restaurant in Waikiki. It was too late to meet him, but I wanted to tell the world about him. He seemed such an unusually gracious, kind person, so determined, so self-effacing, such smiling eyes. I'm thrilled to be introducing him to this generation of young Mainland readers."
The book is a crisp and well-written chronicle.
Waldrep's fun Art Deco-feeling illustrations represent the time period well.