Do You Believe in Magic?

Petra Evers and her Little Greenies.

One of the most beautiful things about childhood is imagination—that sense of wonder that comes naturally from make-believing, going outside and getting your feet dirty, climbing trees and discovering. It’s a state of being we tend to lose touch with as we get older, and for some children who grow up so quickly in today’s fast-paced environment, that magical space can too easily slip away.

To Petra Evers, a Kailua-based artist and entrepreneur, the awe of childhood is incredibly special and worth cherishing, not only for keiki but for adults as well—and the future we all have in common. It has been one source of inspiration for her Little Greenies, the whimsical, playful creatures spawned from nature and living within the forests around us, and in the hearts and minds of a growing number of Hawai‘i’s youngsters.

More tangibly, these enlivening role models made their debut a few years ago in the children’s book The Little Greenies: Manu the Seabird. Once upon an earlier time, aſter a long chapter in her artistic career devoted to computer graphics—with names such as Sega and the “Final Fantasy” film giving just a taste of her background—Evers found herself yearning for creative liberation. She longed to get back to basics and reconnect with the “triangle of hands, mind and heart that comes together when you use your hands in a design.”

As a mother of young twins, her artistic desires coincided with a maternal instinct to seek alternatives to the plastic and electronic toys as well as the outdated rhetoric that seemed to dominate the children’s market.

“You start searching for different kinds of stories that are non-violent, for example, that don’t deal about black and white, and fighting, good and evil, but that are more Zen-based,” Evers explains.

The Enchanted Lake resident decided to create the change she wished to see and provide an alternative. Growing organically from the illumination she found in playing with her daughter and son, Nalani and Kekai, Evers sculpted the first Greenies out of clay, bringing life to a continuously evolving world of fascination for children.

In Manu the Seabird, readers are introduced to Akamai, Pua, Ula and Ipo, the fanciful clan of Greenies who live in the universal, loving realm of nature. As colorful creatures, each with a distinct personality, they instantly resonate with children whose imaginations run wild upon encountering a Greenie.

“This is the youngest brother Ipo,” shares Kekai, who at 10 years old still remembers acting out scenes for the book with his sister six years ago. “He’s the smallest, youngest brother, so he is kind of the scared one and everyone takes care of him.”

In the story, Kekai and Nalani are befriended by the Greenies, and together they try to rescue a fallen bird that has eaten a blue plastic bag. When reflecting on the book’s subject matter, Evers explains, “We’re living in a time that our kids will have to grow up and solve a lot of problems with our environment that we have created, and so I think it’s important that you inspire. To me, that’s important—inspiration—and that you do it with love and fun.”

The tale’s inspirations already are resonating with Kekai in his own way. He describes the most important thing about the story as “friendship. If there’s a friend in danger, you want to help. Help nature before it dies.”