New children’s book uses ‘a’ama crab to teach architecture

'A'ama Nui

Many of us have fond childhood memories of giving chase to the elusive ‘a’ama crab, those black spiny crabs that scamper across rocks and can be found on every reef in Hawaii.

Songs have been written about their existence and now the newest children’s book to come out of Hawaii is doing the same.

The author is Hawaii architect Robert Iopa, president of WCIT Architecture. Last month the firm launched Moo Studio, its new publishing arm, to celebrate the stories of Hawaii.

Its first book, “‘A’ama Nui, Guardian Warrior Chief of Lalakea,” is receiving rave reviews.

“We were really inspired by Aunty Edith Kanakaole’s mele of the bays of Keaukaha,” Iopa said. “The book was really inspired by trying to showcase culture and history in design — so people in place and the mo’olelo of our place, of our islands and how that can be inspirational to architecture… It’s been a really fun process.”

The Hilo native weaves Hawaiian chant, personal storytelling and modern-day architecture and design principles into a tale of an ‘a’ama crab warrior that protects the ponds of Lalakea.

“We really call it an architectural book series for children,” Iopa said. “We’re already writing book number two. It’s about the College of Hawaiian language Haleolelo that we designed in Hilo and we’d really like this to be a series of stories that showcase how we approach design, and how we approach design with our communities in Hawaii.”

Last week, the book received honorable mention recognition by Ka Palapala Po’okela Award of Excellence in Children’s Literature and Children’s Hawaiian Culture.

“We are very honored,” Iopa said. “It’s a humbling kind of experience but it’s also gratifying to know that it is resonating in our community, the reaction has really been overwhelming.”

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