[review + author chat] Margo Sorenson on Little Calabash

Aloha, Friends! If you’re in the mood for a little taste of sunny Hawaii, you’ve come to the right place: Margo Sorenson is back to talk about her latest picture book, Little Calabash (Island Heritage, 2020).

This sweet and satisfying story, illustrated in vibrant, fruity colors by Anneth Lagamo, will delight young readers who enjoy anthropomorphic characters, lively wordplay, and kicking back in the kitchen. 🙂

It’s Keoki’s birthday, and his mom is busy making some delicious treats for his party: haupia pudding, starfruit cookies, and mango cupcakes with guava frosting. As she stirs, mixes, grates, rolls, and pours, she uses a number of different kitchen utensils and calabashes.

But not Little Calabash. He wants to help too, but so far he’s been left out. Is he too small to be of use? Does this mean he isn’t special like the other calabashes?

Some are not so sympathetic.

“Stop your whining,” said the goblet.

You need to chill out,” the refrigerator said, frostily.

“Quit trying to stir up trouble,” said the wooden spoon.

Little Calabash felt a tear form.

Yet others are supportive and encouraging, like the coffee pot, who whispers, “Perk up, kid. You are special. Keep believing in yourself. You’ll see.”

Little Calabash keeps his hopes up, determined to be used for the party. He’s stuck in the back of the shelf, behind the bigger calabashes. Keoki’s mom won’t use him if she can’t find him, right? So he gradually wiggles his way to the front of the cupboard shelf, inch by inch, paying no attention to naysayers like the frying pan, toaster, and teaspoon, who says, “You just don’t measure up.”

Will Little Calabash’s initiative finally pay off? How does Little Calabash make Keoki feel like a big kid on his birthday?

While Margo shows off her skills as an enthusiastic punster, Anneth fills the kitchen with cheeky, emotive culinary characters who sparkle with personality. Kids will never look at kitchen paraphernalia the same way ever again, not after they’ve heard the cocoa mug, mixer, and colander have their say.

Everything has a face, and the various expressions make each piece distinctive. Kids will love poring over the illustrations to check out every tiny detail. Who wouldn’t be tickled by laughing eggs and chopsticks, adorable marshmallows, and an entire platter of smiley fruit? The can opener appears to be quite friendly, while the colander is decidedly aloof. Even the little cork in the olive oil bottle is grinning, while the other calabashes, in all their winsome brownness, come off as warm and lovable.

Kids will root for Little Calabash as they’re reminded that everyone counts, no matter their size. They’ll enjoy pointing out all the different pieces of kitchen equipment and will likely have a good chuckle over the punny dialogue. They can also find out more about the island treats mentioned in the story in the lip-smacking glossary.

Now, let’s hear what Margo has to say about writing the book. We thank her for sharing lots of personal photos and a favorite recipe from Hawaii. And yes, she has her very own calabash!


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embracing the blueness

So, one day not too long ago, I was minding my own business when dear writer friend Jessica Swaim sent me the following Brian Doyle prose poem. Does she know me, or what?


from The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond (2015)
by Brian Doyle

I was in a library in Utah the other night when
A small boy asked me to help him find a book.
The boy was perhaps four years old and intent.
I said what book would you like, little brother?
And he said, 'One with blue in it. A lot of blues.
One I can smell the blue. I love that blue. Mom
Says people can like other colors too, but why?
Is there a shelf for blue books? If lots of people
Read the book does the blue wear out? Is there
A blue bank where you have to get a new blue?'
You know, many times I have sighed that I am
Not able to help people who ask me for advice,
Or directions, or counsel about this or that. But
I don't think I ever wanted so much to say, hey,
Little brother, come with me to the room where
All the books are so blue that you have to laugh
At the seethe and soar of it; books about oceans
And herons and jays and the sky and Vida Blue,
Books about how blue used to be and might yet
Become, books brimming with azure and cobalt
And cornflower and iris and periwinkle and teal,
Books so blue that you dream in blue for days . . .

~ from How the Light Gets In: And Other Headlong
 Epiphanies (Orbis Books, 2015).


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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Mr Cornelius selected this wonderful bear painting for our first Cool Things Roundup of 2021. It was created by UK artist Penny Gaj, who lives and works in one of my favorite places in England, the Cotswolds.

Penny loves to paint imaginary country scenes and trees with a story to tell, blending colors and textures for a dreamy, ethereal effect.

Her pictures are replete with the outlines of branches, twigs, stalks and leaves silhouetted against the sky, rising from rolling hills or lining peaceful woodland paths.

Hares, foxes, squirrels, deer and birds wander freely, with the occasional humans, cats and dogs. 🙂

You can purchase Penny’s art as signed prints, 5×7 cards, A5, and square cards through her official website.


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2020 Poetry Friday Archive

1. Three Barbara Crooker “blue” poems

2. “Letter Perfect” by Alice N. Persons

3. THE SUPERLATIVE A. LINCOLN by Eileen R. Myer and Dave Szalay

4. ON A SNOW-MELTING DAY: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman

5. “Saltines” and “Fifteen Bean Soup” by Barbara Crooker

6. “What I Eat is How I Feel” (Guest post by Julia Wendell)

7. “Great Breakfasts of My Childhood” by Ryan Warren

8. INSIDE OUT: Poems On Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises by Marjorie Maddox

9. WHOO-KU HAIKU: A Great Horned Owl Story by Maria Gianferrari and Jonathan Voss

10. 2020 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Roundup

11. “The Consolation of Apricots” by Diane Ackerman

12. I REMEMBER: Poems and Pictures of Heritage, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins

13. “Animal Cracker (no s)” by Gretchen Friel

14. “Fragmentary Blue” by Robert Frost and “Blue Eyes” by Elton John

15. ON WINGS OF WORDS: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander

16. “The Cookie Jar” by Edgar Guest

17. “Working in Flour” by Jeff Friedman (+ Poetry Friday Roundup)

18. ILLUSIONS: Poetry and Art for the Young at Heart by Charles Ghigna and Chip Ghigna

19. “Tea at Jubilee Manor” by Linda Crosfield and “I Am Not Old,” by Samantha Reynolds

20. “Money is the Thing with Feathers” by Susan Firer

21. “What is Given” by Ralph Murre, and “Strawberries” by Tamara Madison

22. “The Night of Corona” by Ann Barber

23. “On the Other Side” by Lynn Ungar

24. Follow the Recipe by Marilyn Singer and Marjorie Priceman

25. “Call Me Bourgeois” by Alice N. Persons

26. KAMALA HARRIS: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes and Laura Freeman

27. Three poems by Penny Harter (Interview/A Poem The Body Makes)

28. I’M FEELING BLUE, TOO! by Marjorie Maddox and Philip Huber

29. “Of History and Hope” by Miller Williams

30. “Falling” by David James (+ Poetry Friday Roundup)

31. “Ode to a Tea Bag” by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer

32. “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda

33. THE TINY BAKER by Hayley Barrett and Alison Jay

34. Sonny and Cher memory (“I Got You Babe”)

35. “While the Pie is Cooling” by Camille A. Bala

36. “Lessons” by David L. James

37. “I Like Tapioca” by Bill Batcher

38. “Into the Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle

*A permalink to this archive can be found in the sidebar of this blog. 

snow doubt about it, we love snow

It’s snowing! As I type this, we’re delighting in the first snowfall of the season. Big fat fluffy flakes are drifting down from the sky, coating each bare branch and gently blanketing the earth as if to tuck it in for the rest of winter.

No doubt about it, snow is magical — silently transforming the world, making it appear so pristine.

“Le Renard” by Guy Servais

On a day like today, it’s nice cozying up indoors, safe and warm, gazing out the window while noshing on hot chocolate and snowball cookies. Join me?


Art by Phoebe Wahl
by Richard Greene

I still delight in snow
some seventy years after I first did.
Though my body now is tentative,
my spirit weary of life's contests,
I still take pleasure
in that world of whiteness
just as I did when I resided
in a frame so small
I can no longer remember how it felt.
Was I an infant?
No way of knowing,
but when I see snow fall
I sense boy-feelings of decades ago,
flakes on my lashes,
against my skin, 
the bracing scent,
the compact blizzard
as I tumbled from my sled
a scattering of cold powder
turning my eyebrows white,
as now do other causes,
my clothes encrusted
the wetness soaking through,
the warm kitchen
where I disrobed
("Get out of those wet clothes!"
my mother said)
into the one where I sit now
tapping out this poem.


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