Sep. 26—"Kamoho the Chameleon Plays Hide & Seek "
By Kelly Gray Marrotte ; illustrated by Kelsie Kalohi $12.99, self-published Derrick Kamohoalii Bulatao was born and raised in Windward Oahu. It was a hard-knock life. Young Derrick was as intelligent as the other kids, but when it came to fitting in he had three strikes against him.
First, he was afflicted with dyslexia, a neurological disorder that made it difficult for him to read, write and spell. He also had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyspraxia, aka developmental coordination disorder. ADHD made it difficult for him to pay attention and remain quiet at school. DCD caused him to be unusually clumsy. And he stuttered.
The schools didn't have programs for kids with those problems. Young Derrick was consigned to the classes for students who were, in the politically incorrect term of the time, "retarded."
Children and teens can be cruel creatures. They had a lot of slurs for kids who didn't fit in. Young Derrick heard all of them, but he didn't buy into them.
He "pushed through the different roadblocks " and taught himself the skills he needed to become a professional remixer /DJ and emcee. Winning a "cutting " competition earned him the title "Kutmaster." To that he added one of the slurs he'd been taunted with and became Kutmaster Spaz.
"Spaz " for short.
In a new children's book, "Kamoho the Chameleon Plays Hide & Seek, " written by Kelly Gray Marrotte and illustrated by Kelsie Kalohi, Bulatao shares his childhood experiences, and the life lessons he learned from them, with young readers and their parents.
"I took 'Spaz' as my DJ name to show them that you can take a negative and make it a positive, " he explained. "Also for me to never forget where I came from and always look out to help other people.
In the years since that pivotal transformation, Bulatao has built a career as a DJ, multimedia producer, production manager, promotions director, voice-over talent and actor. He is the CEO of DIS-N-DAT Media, teaches digital media at Maryknoll Middle School and actively promotes the benefits of a positive drug-free and tobacco-free lifestyle.
He also works relentlessly to reduce bullying, and he's hoping the new book will be a vehicle for that.
The tale follows a friendly young Jackson's chameleon, Kamoho, who is bullied by other young chameleons because he is in special education classes. Several of them include him in a game of hide and seek that does not go well, but Kamoho later makes an important discovery that helps him keep going and find true friends.
The story concludes with a life lesson all children will find useful, no matter where they are in their school's social hierarchy.
"Derrick was a kid that was bullied, that couldn't stand up for himself. Spaz is the person who could finally stand up and give a voice to those who need it, " said Bulatao. "So I love it when people call me 'Spaz.'"