During the pause caused by Covid, Maui mamas Jenny Coon and Nicki Barsamian moved on from their jobs and suddenly found time on their hands. Coon’s gift of writing and marketing coupled with Barsamian’s talents in education and art led to the launch of Waikapu Publishing and their first book Huli the Hawaiian Chicken: Dances on the Moon. The character of Huli was inspired by Coon’s young daughter who was learning rhyming words. Barsamian then brought the story to life with colorful illustrations that featured local and endemic plants. Supporting themes found in the book, they donated a portion of their book sales to Maui Cultural Lands, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Hawaiian resources.

The ideas kept flowing and they published their second book Huli the Hawaiian Chicken: Searches for Snow. This time, they partnered with local business Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, as well as donated a portion of proceeds from book sales to Imua Family Services. Maintaining a connection to the Maui experience, the follow up continued the colorful illustrations, place-based education, and the fun rhyming tone kids love.

For their third book, they met with the early literacy team at Maui Family Support Services who reached out to them to create a learning tool. The collaboration led to Huaka’io Maui: An Island Guidebook for Families. Traci Robello, the early literacy coordinator, says: “The aim here is place-based learning; our local children and families will see familiar places with people who look like them, doing the things they do. This type of learning will increase a desire in children to read, look and talk about the pictures, listen to the words and rhymes, and inevitably build their love for books.” 

To find the books and learn more, visit waikapupublishing.com.