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Calvin Coconut: Hero of Hawaii Hardcover – March 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 460L (What's this?)
  • Series: Calvin Coconut
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385739621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385739627
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,718,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

GRAHAM SALISBURY is the author of four Calvin Coconut books: Trouble Magnet, The Zippy Fix, Dog Heaven, and Zoo Breath, as well as several novels for older readers, including the award-winning  Lord of the Deep, Blue Skin of the Sea, Under the Blood-Red Sun, Eyes of the Emperor, House of the Red Fish, and Night of the Howling Dogs. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

The Buzz

It was going to be the most famous party our street had ever seen. In two days my sister, Darci, was turning seven, and the buzz was the whole neighborhood would be showing up, invited or not. The Coconuts were building a slippery slide.

"Ho, man," I mumbled, squinting up at the sun. "Can it get any hotter?" I'd been trying to think of the perfect birthday present for Darci, something good, something that would really mean something. But it was too hot to think, and I was coming up blank.

Julio humphed. "Where are those clouds when you need them?"

"Or just a breeze," Maya said.

We were sitting on the grass in my front yard: me, my friends Julio Reyes, Willy Wolf, Maya Medeiros, and my black-and-white dog, Streak.

At the bottom of our sloping lawn, a slow-moving river sparkled in the sun. It was the color of rust and almost as wide as half a football field.

Darci and Carlos, Julio's five-year-old brother, were poking around in the swamp grass looking for toads. Carlos had followed Julio down to my house on a pair of homemade tin can stilts.

I popped up on my elbow. "Hey, anyone want to go swimming in the river?"

Julio made a face. "That stinky water?"

I shrugged.

Maya shook her head. "The bottom is all mucky. Who wants to step in that?"

They were right. It was smelly and mucky.

Still, you could cool off in it.

"Looks fine to me," Willy said. He was new to Kailua. His family had just moved to the islands from California.

"Go," Julio said. "Jump in. But don't swallow it."

Willy frowned.

We called it a river, but it really wasn't. It was a drainage canal that carried runoff from the lowlands out to the ocean. I took my skiff out on it all the time, a red rowboat that sat in the swamp grass below us. I got Darci to go with me sometimes, but she didn't like being out on the water. She wasn't a good swimmer.

"So when's Ledward coming?" Willy asked.

"Soon."

Mom was still at work, but her boyfriend, Ledward, was coming over to build the slippery slide for Darci's party . . . a monster slippery slide that would start with a high ramp at the top of our yard and run all the way down to the river.

Carlos stopped searching for toads and looked up at us. The tin can stilts were slung around his neck, two big cans with strings on them. He took them off and stepped up onto them, then clomped up the slope.

Julio groaned and closed his eyes. His brothers drove him crazy. He had four, all younger than him.

"Wanna hear a song?" Carlos said, coming over to us.

Willy laughed.

I squinted up at Carlos. "Not really."

"Go ahead, Carlos," Maya said. "You can sing your song to me."

"My mom gave me a nickel, she said go buy a pickle, I did not buy a pickle, I--"

"Come on, Carlos," I pleaded. "Go sing it to the toads."

"--I bought some bubble gum, a-chuka-chuka bubble gum, a-chuka-chuka bubble gum, a-chu--"

I covered my ears. Where was Ledward!

"My mom gave me a dime, she said go buy a--"

"Julio, wake up!" I shouted. "Carlos just wet his pants!"

Julio peeked open an eye.

Carlos stopped singing and looked down.

"Peace at last," I said.

Willy cracked up.

Maya glared at me.

"What?" I said.

"You didn't have to embarrass him."

Carlos's eyes filled with tears.

Maya slapped my arm. "Look what you did."

Julio went back to sleep.

"Hey, hey, hey," I said, sitting up. "Come on, Carlos, I was only joking." Carlos pulled up on the strings that held the tin can stilts to his feet. "My mom gave me a . . . gave me a . . ."

He couldn't go on.

"You're such a meany, Calvin." Maya got up and put her arm around Carlos. She kicked Julio's foot. "Don't you care about your brother?"

"What brother?" Julio said, his eyes closed. "I don't have a brother."

I sighed and got up. "Come on, Carlos, I didn't mean it. Look. I was kidding. You didn't wet your pants, and anyway how's about you teach me to walk on those stilts?"

Carlos stared at the grass.

"Come on. I never learned how."

Carlos stepped off the cans and held them up by their strings.

"Cool," I said, taking them.

"Calvin!" someone screeched from the garage.

I glanced over my shoulder.

Stella, holding up the dog-poop shovel.



2

Outstanding

Stella was from Texas and lived with us as Mom's helper. She was in the tenth grade at Kailua High School. She wasn't just bossy, she invented bossy.

"What?" I said, stepping up on the tin can stilts.

"Your mom called and said to clean up the yard for the party."

"So clean it."

"You, Stump. Not me."

I squinted at her. I hated when she called me Stump!

"Justice for the meany," Maya said.

Stella wasn't leaving until I took the shovel. "Let's go!" she snapped. "I don't have all day."

"This is all your fault," I said to Streak.

Streak tilted her head.

"Hey, Carlos, you want to help me?"

Carlos grinned.

"Go on, Carlos," Julio said, his eyes still closed. "I've done it before, and it's really fun!"

Maya grabbed Carlos's shirt. "Oh no you don't. Carlos, don't listen to these fools."

I shrugged. Still on Carlos's tin can stilts, I clomped over to get the shovel.

Stella eyed me. "Are you some kind of a circus freak? Oh, I know, you just needed help getting up to normal height."

She snickered at her own joke.

"So funny I forgot to laugh."

She grinned, holding out the shovel. "Get it all, Stump. We don't need some kid stepping in something."

"Stop calling me Stump!"

"Well, you're short, aren't you?"

"Stop! I mean it!"

"And if I don't?"

I snatched the shovel out of her hand just as Ledward's jeep pulled up. He honked.

"Scoop the poop," Stella cackled, then rode her broom back into the house.

More About the Author

I hope what gives my books their sense of authenticity, other than the natural inculcation of the island physical and cultural landscape, which ends up in my sentences by osmosis, is my use of language. In Hawaii we often speak what we call pidgin English, a kind of tropical patois. For example, in Standard English one would say, "I am going home." In Hawaiian pidgin it would be, "I going home." A simple thing, but over the course of a novel it becomes a bigger thing, a part of a character's being. It resonates. Syntax, too, creates that feeling of authenticity. It comes to me naturally, thank heaven. I don't have to work at it because I simply hear it. If I had to fake it I'd be laughed off the face of the earth. So, growing up in the islands was my gift. My writing is just me spewing it back.

As for the work itself, I'm big on certain issues having to do with boys and growing up. I guess this is so because of my own fractured upbringing. Much of who I am is self-imposed. I am my choices, and I have chosen to walk a certain path. Important to me are such qualities as honesty, friendship, honor, loyalty, integrity, courage, work and passion. Life for anyone is a series of choices, and I hope that fact gets some play in my books. Luckily for me, I have made some good choices. It could have been different. I could have taken pride in the wrong moves, as many boys do. It's cool to be tough. Beating the spit out of someone is good for the rep. It's honorable to attack someone who "disrespects" you by, perhaps, accidentally bumping into you (Hey! You like I broke your face or what?). Right. I could have fallen into that mindset. But I didn't, and I lay all credit to that on one man: James Monroe Taylor, my high school headmaster.

At the end of my sixth grade year my mom saw the light - she kicked my sorry okole out of the house and sent me to boarding school. It was in the middle of Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii, and was the most precious gift she ever could have given me. I loved it. For the first time in my life I had something I really, really, really needed: limits. It was like being at boot camp. Mr. Taylor, as part of his training, took us into his home in small groups and lectured us on the good qualities of life, all that stuff that is now so important to me: friendship, honor, etc. Of course, it was my duty at that time to laugh it off. That fat old man was out of his head. But his words stuck, and because they did, whenever I was presented with a sticky situation I was able to fall back on that foundation and use it to make the better choice. My mother and Mr. Taylor. My hat's off to both of them.

In my career as an author, I've spoken to a bazillion kids, mostly in grades 6 through 8. It's been fun, truly. But I had an epiphany one day, and my newest creation, Calvin Coconut, came to be because of it.

I once spoke to a large group of fifth and sixth graders in a huge gymnasium, and was leaving the school, heading down the hall with the teacher who had invited me. "There's a third grade teacher here in our school who just loves your books," she said as we walked, "and she asked me to ask you if you would be willing to just stop by her class and say hi to her kids. They know about you, too, because she read them one of your short stories."

"Sure," I said. I'd never spoken to third graders. It might be fun.

Boy, was it.

The third grade teacher and every one of her students were literally glowing with excitement, having the AUTHOR in their classroom.

They gathered around, sitting in a semi-circle on the floor. I sat in a chair next to the teacher, who reached over and picked up a plate of cookies.

The kids all leaned forward, eyes bright as a thousand suns, rascally twinkles in them.

"Would you like to try one of the cookies we made in class?" she said.

I didn't, but I was on duty. "Uh, sure," I said.

She pushed the plate closer.

The kids did a magnificent job of stuffing back their giggles as I reached out and picked up a yummy-looking, but - I could tell -- very fake, cookie.

The teacher grinned and I played along and pretended to bite into it. "Bleecck!" I spat, and the kids roared, as if it were the funniest thing they'd ever seen in their lives.

And that's what got me: those beautiful, beautiful faces, all looking up at me in pure delight.

I ended up telling them a story of when I got stuck in a mass of mud, a story I love to tell, and they laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

I left that school a new man, and vowed then and there that someday I was going to expand my writing to include this group. Because I loved those faces and yearn to absorb that energy.

I also wanted to include this younger audience because teachers have told me many, many times that they just can't get their boys interested in reading. I know of their plight. I was one of those boys. I read only one book on my own in all my elementary school years: TARZAN OF THE APES, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

So Calvin Coconut and I have a job to do. Call Calvin Graham Salisbury light, because I'm bringing real life situations and themes for discussion into every Calvin book, just like I do in my books for older readers. I won't get heavy, I won't get edgy, and I won't be gratuitous. None of this is about me. It's about every kid out there today who is just like the wandering fool I was. Besides the simple enjoyment of writing, my aim is simple: to build trust and turn boys into lifetime readers.

I finally became a reader at thirty. That's how hard it is to get some boys to read. I'd like to join all my very fine writer/teacher/librarian/parent colleagues in changing that a bit. Reading changes everything. Boy, does it!


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Godfrey on June 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Graham Salisbury demonstrates his story-telling magic once again with this rocking, irreverent adventure full of island-style aloha for friends, family and community.
Hawaii fourth-grader Calvin Coconut lives up to his reputation as a trouble magnet (see Calvin Coconut #1, Calvin Coconut:Trouble Magnet) and skates the thin edge of safety when he goes out with a pal to check the wild storm surf at Kailua Beach. But when real trouble comes along, we are transported into the page-turning action with Calvin, experiencing a wild ride in which the focus is all on the one thing necessary: the rescue of a friend.
The characters in this ongoing family story illustrate one of the series' strengths: the rewards and trials of the relationships in Calvin's world. As wild as Calvin is, he's a thoughtful brother, son and friend. He is helped along by other thoughtful, strong male characters, and by his hard-working mom and sassy teenaged "sister". He in turn holds out a hand to his little sister Darci and his dog, Streak. It is a satisfying hierarchy.
Calvin is a character with a rich inner life, in this episode concerned with not only the cast of the movie of his life but a short meditation on the Golden Buddha at a local temple "That was what I liked about the big golden Buddha," Calvin says, "He always seemed ok with everything. Like, don't worry, be happy, life is good." Calvin also meditates on the best breakfast ever to have in a storm (bacon, eggs and pancakes), why being mean is the worst and what to do about it, and how to drown-proof his friends and family.
These themes run through the book like a stream, while the masterfully written action scenes pull the reader full speed ahead through chapter after chapter. Jacqueline Rogers' fine illustrations add to the fast pace, joy and fun of this exciting addition to the Calvin Coconut series.
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By Nicole Heinlein on May 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this story aloud to my children and also to my second grade class. All children loved it! The characters are believable, the story line was interesting, and the setting is beautiful Hawaii! We live on a different Hawaiian island, but have visited Oahu and loved the Hawaiian culture and even places that are mentioned in the book. Definitely a great read for kids who love adventure and love Hawaii!
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My third grade book club read this book in the after school program this year. The students loved it and said they can't wait to read other books in the series. Of the books in the series I have read, this is the one I like the best, which is why I chose it for the book club. It first caught my attention when it was nominated for a Nevada Young Readers award a couple of years ago. The nominations must come from students across the state so we see what they think are good books and the books must be no older than a couple of year. So students found this for the committee to check out. Way to go students.
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