ONE OF THE JOYS of my book signings at Pearl Harbor is being able to see the immediate reaction of people to the images in my book. From eight-year-olds to 95-year-old World War II veterans, their varied responses would make a good photo book in itself. Adults usually scan and then come back for a second look, but kids ponder over each picture. I don’t need cartoon thought bubbles over their heads to understand what they’re thinking, because the thoughts pop to the surface like the black drops from the Arizona: “Wow!” one will exclaim. “These pictures are beautiful.” Or another might say, “I love the cover,” which is something I love to hear. The wonder spills forth in other expressions like:

“These pictures look like paintings.”

“Are you the painter?”

“I love that quote.”

“I’d love to have a print of that picture on my wall.”

Other typical reactions are: “I didn’t know that.”

“Is he still alive?”

“Thank you for sharing this story.”

Because they come from all over the world to visit Pearl Harbor, I am treated to such responses from an almost universal audience from dozens of countries and all 50 states. It makes me proud to have created a new visual approach to this sacred American shrine – one contained in my picture book called, Renewal at The Place of Black Tear; one I call my up close look at the “black tears”.


I simply didn’t expect the response from the many young American students from elementary schools to PhD programs – as well as their teachers, librarians and parents – to my book. The sheer number of 10- year-olds and 5th grade teachers speaking to me at Pearl Harbor or emailing me has shocked me; they’ve been remarkably receptive and engaging. Students are quick to tell me what they see:

“I see… a tree, a surfer, a rabbit, a bird. This looks like fire. This is war and that is peace.” And they ask me questions, like: “Did you take the pictures? Where? How?”

Teachers begin talking right away about using the book to teach lessons for their students.  From every region of the county, they’ve become animated as they talk about combining art and history lessons for their young learners. Another surprise has been the healing power of some of the images in the book. I’ll talk about that in a later post.

Families Visit Pearl Harbor

The summertime has been a time of families at Pearl Harbor – some with three generations visiting the memorial and talking together with me. There is a lot of sharing of personal stories – many concerning husbands, uncles, fathers, and grandfathers, sometimes about themselves or a brother – when, where and how they served. They range from the serious to the humorous. Everyone has a story. Often telling my dad’s story opens the door for others to tell their family’s story. There is lots of what in Hawaii is called “chicken skin” in those stories. The kids look forward to sharing with their schoolmates what they’ve learned at Pearl Harbor. I tell the kids that lots of “old people” – people in their 30s, 40s and 50s – tell me that they remember the day they first visited Pearl Harbor with their families..

Ambassador for Pearl Harbor

I love to come early and stay late for book signing at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center so I can meet and talk with people. I’ve quickly become an unofficial ambassador for the memorial. My only regret is that I don’t live in Hawaii; I only wish I could be here more often. Be aware that the education department of Pacific Historic Parks at Pearl Harbor is developing a 5th grade curriculum to complement the high school one already in use. They have worldwide video conferencing capability with the mission of telling the Pearl Harbor story. Imagine having Pearl Harbor historians, survivors and others interacting with students in your classroom.

Get Connected

Many teachers (and librarians) have said they would like to connect and collaborate with other teachers around the country using Renewal at The Place of Black Tears as a catalyst for teaching the Pearl Harbor story. Combining art and history is a theme I heard several express.