AG_Kanani2011GOY1I’m always searching for ways to teach my grandchildren about different cultures. When I travel, I bring home souvenirs that tell a country’s story, such as dolls dressed in native attire or animals that are indigenous to the area. With the introduction of the 2011 American Girl of the Year, Kauai’s Kanani Akina, gives this Traveling Grandmom an opportunity to introduce my granddaughter to Hawaii’s Aloha spirit on the island of Kauai. (And maybe sometime take her and my grandson on a multi-generational family vacation to Kauai!)

Kanani is multi-ethnic and lives among a community of ‘ohana (family) and friends. The central theme of Kanani’s message is sharing aloha with others. Aloha spirit is more than just hello; it’s the attitude of friendly acceptance of the islands.

Kanani’s story also brings awareness to protecting the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. The Kauai Visitors Bureau HawaiianMonkSeal1and Kauai Monk Seal Watch Program  helped author Lisa Yee with her Kauai research for the story that is told in two books published about Kanani being the 2011 American Girl of the Year. And American Girl is donating $1 Kanani plush monk seal sold in 2011 to National Wildlife Federation (up to $100,000).

Kanani is American Girl’s first doll from Hawai’i to be recognized as Girl of the Year. Her story is told in two books, and along with the 18-inch doll Kanani Akina, books and accessories debuted January 1.  You can read more about her at

If you’ve been to Kauai’i, you already know how stunning are its 50 miles of white sand beaches (most beaches per mile of any Hawaiian island) in a family-friendly tropical vacation just waiting for you. Discover more about the Kauai at