“Written in the Sky” by Matthew Kaopio

Written in the Sky by Matthew Kaopio

Ever since his grandmother died, 14-year old ‘Īkauikalani has lived homeless and alone under a bridge at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu. Sometimes feeling invisible, he observes the other homeless people, tourists, even ants, and appreciates the beauty of sunsets and clouds.


Then three things come together that give him the chance to change his life. In a dream, his grandmother tells him to find “Mariah Wong.” At the park, a stranger gives him a flyer about a shaman lecture. And a homeless man named Hawaiian befriends him, leaving ‘Īkau with his journal after he is murdered.


Guided by a Hawaiian owl, his spirit guide, he finds Gladness (Gladys Lu), who offers him work cleaning her yard; shares what he has with other homeless people; finds his grandmother’s estranged aunt; learns the meaning of his name; and gains a sense of family and identity.


“Written in the Sky” (2005) by Matthew Kaopio is a young adult novel about being seen, small kindnesses, sharing what you have, taking care of the land, reaffirming faith in God, and finding a purpose. The writing is poetical, poignant, and ultimately hopeful and full of life. ‘Īkau is resilient, generous-hearted, self-reliant, and mature, and he chooses not be become resentful or bitter. He appreciates small kindnesses and small joys, and he is eager to learn – “He took out Hawaiian’s journal and fed his equally hungry soul with words of nourishment.”


Throughout the book, he is usually referred to as “the boy”; but at the end of this part of his journey, ‘Īkau introduces himself as he starts to write in Hawaiian’s journal. He has found his voice and identity.


There are some adult themes of homelessness and poverty. The plot has bursts of violence (the murder scene is not for young kids) and realistic portrayals of Hawaii’s local culture. It is particularly poignant today with the rising number of homeless families in Hawaii.


How do you react to hardship and loss? Who can you depend on when bad things happen? What are your hopes for the future?

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