Graham Salisbury

Graham Salisbury

  • Recognized author of numerous children’s books based in Hawaii including the Calvin Coconut books, four World War II Novels including Under the Blood Red Sun (now a full length motion picture filmed in Hawaii) and six middle reader novels including Night of the Howling Dogs and Eyes of the Emperor
  • Winner of Pen/Norma Klein Award
  • Former writer for the Honolulu Star Advertiser

Travels from Portland, Oregon

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Graham Salisbury comes from a 100-year line of newspapermen, all associated with Hawaii’s morning paper, the Honolulu Advertiser (now the Honolulu Star Advertiser). Although a career as a newsman could have been possible, Salisbury chose to imagine rather than report. “I enjoy writing about characters who might have been. To me, exploring fictional themes, situations, and lives is a quietly exhilarating experience. There are times when completely unexpected happenings take place as my fingertips explore the keyboard, things that make me laugh, or get choked up over, or even amaze me.”

Salisbury’s drive to write about the emotional journey that kids must take to become adults in a challenging and complicated world is evident throughout his work. Says the author: “I’ve thought a lot about what my responsibility is, or should be as an author of books for young readers. I don’t write to teach, preach, or criticize, but to explore. And if my readers vicariously experience story characters making choices, living with the consequences of those choices, and learning from them … then perhaps I will have done something worthwhile.”

His books — Blue Skin of the Sea, Under the Blood-Red Sun, House of the Red Fish, Eyes of the Emperor, Shark Bait, Jungle Dogs, Lord of the Deep, Island Boyz, Night of the Howling Dogs, and his very popular Calvin Coconut series — have been celebrated widely with praise and distinguished awards. Graham Salisbury, winner of the PEN/Norma Klein Award, grew up on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii. Later, he graduated from California State University, Northridge, and received an MFA degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In fact, he was a member of the founding faculty of VCFA’s highly successful MFA program in Writing for Children.

Other important things to know about this author: He worked as the skipper of a glass-bottom boat, as a deckhand on a deep-sea charter fishing boat, and as a Montessori elementary school teacher. His rock-and-roll band, The Millennium, had a number one hit in the Philippines, which he composed. He once surfed with a shark, got stung by a Portuguese man-of-war (several times!), and swam for his life from a moray eel. Believe it or not, he didn’t wear shoes until the sixth grade and didn’t see snow until he was nineteen. Graham Salisbury now lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

Choose Excellence

“We are what we choose to be. Fortunate kids learn this truth early on – from a parent, a mentor, a committed teacher, a friend. But not all are so fortunate as to have such guides. This is where stories can make a real difference. Vicarious exploration can offer opportunities to learn good things: What is character? What is friendship? What are values? What is courage? What is generosity? What is work ethic? These themes and more play out in my books. We are who we choose to be. We, and we alone, are the master of our ship.” – Graham Salisbury


2011 Hawaii Nene Public Award Nominee

Junior Library Guild Selection

2010 – 2011 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List

2009 Book Award Nominee

Spring 2009 Indie Next list

2009 New York Public Library Titles for Reading and Sharing

2011 Hawaii Nene Award Nominee

2011 – 2012 Indiana Young Hoosier Children’s Book Award Nominee

2011 PNBA Book Award Nominee

2011 Global Reading Challenge List, Seattle Public Library

2011 – 2012 Oregon Battle of the Books pick

2012 Beverly Cleary Children’s Book Award Nominee

2009 – 2010 Cochecho Reader’s Award Nominee

2012 – 2013 Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award Nominee


“As a writer, I’ve been called “Hawaii-centric.” I guess that’s true. Every book I have written is set in the islands, probably because of the love I have for them. My Hawaiian roots run deep, my family having arrived in Kailua-Kona in 1820. Though I grew up in a far more innocent time, my challenges were much the same as for any young person growing up today. Some of those challenges did not play out well. What went wrong … or right? Through fiction my readers and I discover hidden treasures.”  GS


Calvin Coconut | Trouble Magnet – one of a series of nine Calvin Coconut books

Who is Calvin Coconut?

Kids often ask me if I am in any of my books. That’s a good question, and I like answering it. Yes! I am in every book … but not in the way one might think. I have never completely based a character on myself, though I have shared many pieces of my life in my stories. As amazing as my life is and has been, it’s way too boring for good fiction. Still, part of me is in every lead character I have ever written. It’s the part that believes in something, that feels something, that loves or dislikes something. My sensibilities come through in every story situation. And Calvin is where it all starts, in the age of wonder. With the ever-curious young. Character building can never start too soon. And this, to me, is what Calvin Coconut is all about. Character, values, ethics, work. Choices and consequences, even in the silliest of situations. Calvin is every boy. Calvin is me.

Fourth-grader Calvin lives near the beach in Oahu with his mom and little sister. Mom likes to call Calvin her “man of the house.” But Calvin’s not great at being the man of the house, or taking care of his responsibilities. He’s too busy bouncing around with his friends and trying to avoid Tito, the tough kid

Trouble Magnet is the first book in a new series for younger readers, full of all the fun of growing up in Hawaii. It introduces a wonderful multiracial cast of characters, including Mr. Purdy, who calls his fourth-grade class Boot Camp; Uncle Scoop, who runs the lunch wagon at the beach; Ledward, Mom’s 6’7″ boyfriend; and gorgeous, cynical, intimidating, 15-year-old Stella-from-Texas, who arrives to be Mom’s live-in helper—and to step all over Calvin’s turf

Book and Movie   Under the Blood Red Sun now on Netflix and DVD, filmed in Hawaii

See several videos about Graham Salisbury and his movie and books




Little Johnny Coconut: Rocket Ride

Little Johnny Coconut is on tour with his new four-song EP “Rocket Ride!” One of his stops is Honolulu, where he will see his son Calvin for the first time in four years. Calvin’s worried, wondering if Little Johnny will still like him. After Calvin gets on stage with his dad he pretty much knows the answer to that question. Read Calvin Coconut: ROCKET RIDE to see how that all works out. But one thing Calvin and all his friends are sure of is that Little Johnny’s new song “Rocket Ride” is a bazookalolo monster hit!

Available at, cdbaby and itunes

Curriculum Connections

Graham developed a curriculum for teachers that is free on his website to help children develop their own story. Suggestions are offered for Math, Science, Social Studies, Civics and around topics such as bullying and responsibility.

Latest Book


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