Tala Learns to Siva

by Kealani Netane (Author) Dung Ho (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A lovingly empowering story about finding courage and strength in your family, history, and community through a traditional and cherished Samoan dance, taualuga.

Written by debut author, Kealani Netane, and illustrated by New York Times bestselling illustrator, Dung Ho. Tala wishes that she could dance the traditional Samoan dance, the taualuga, just like her Aunty Sina. But Tala's legs are too bouncy, her arms are too stiff, and she doesn't have Aunty's 'glow' when she dances. When Tala prepares to perform at her Grandma's birthday, she freezes on the stage. Will she find the strength and inspiration to help her dance?

Newcomer Kealani Netane crafts a heartwarming story about finding your inner strength through the love and guidance of your family. New York Times bestselling illustrator Dung Ho's cheerful colors and sweet characters bring this loving story to life, making this the perfect gift for little ones who are learning how to follow their hearts and make their own paths.

Select format:

Publishers Weekly

Netane's debut celebrates individual perseverance and connection to Samoan culture as a girl, Tala, learns to siva from her heart. Against an ocean backdrop, Tala watches in awe as Aunty Sina performs the taualuga, her hands dancing like rolling waves. When Aunty shows her the moves, Tala's "legs wobbled... wrists stiffened," and she cries in frustration. Acknowledging her own early struggles with the dance, Aunty advises, "Dance from your heart. The motions will come." Incorporating movements into her everyday activities, Tala makes progress but realizes that something's still missing: a glowing face, honoring both Samoa and the child's ancestors. Employing a tropical palette and repeating stylized motifs, Ho's digital illustrations embody Tala's enthusiasm as the child practices for her stuffed animals, and eventually, her family, carrying tradition forward for future generations. A glossary and author's note conclude. Ages 4-8. (May)

Copyright 2024 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes


Kealani Netane
Kealani Netane is a Native Hawaiian-Samoan picture book writer living just outside of Honolulu on Oahu in Hawai'i. Kealani is an educator for Pacific Islanders and has over 20 years of experience as a Polynesian dancer herself. On top of being a mom, Kealani runs the bookstagram, Little Pasifika Readers, where she highlights #ownvoices Pasifika children's books and other API and diverse and inclusive books. Find her at @littlepasifikareaders and at @ke_a_la_ni on Twitter.

Dung (pronounced Dzung) Ho is a New York Times bestselling illustrator based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Her work focuses on children's books. She also loves to draw interesting characters with unique personalities. In her free time, she likes to cook and watch movies.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Orchard Books
Publication date
May 07, 2024
BISAC categories
JUV031020 - Juvenile Fiction | Performing Arts | Dance
JUV039140 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
JUV011020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Asian American
Library of Congress categories

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!