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picture books    

Little Calabash
illustrated by Anneth Lagamo
Island Heritage, November, 2020
ages 4-8

“It seems as if everyone in the kitchen has an important job to do — everyone except for Little Calabash. Even though he’s little, he wants to be a big help, too!” As Keoki's mother begins preparing for his birthday, she uses everyone else in the kitchen except Littlle Calabash. “Just because I’m small, doesn’t mean I’m not special, does it? “Stop whining” says the Goblet! “Chill out,” says the refrigerator! With little support from the rest of the kitchen, will Little Calabash get the chance to show how important he can be too? This book will teach you that everyone is special no matter what your size is, and that good things will come if you continue to believe in yourself.

The calabash at right is made from monkeypod wood. It was given to me by the Punahou Speech and Debate team when we moved from Hawai'i to the Mainland.

In Hawai`i, the word “Calabash” refers to a large serving bowl, made from the calabash gourd, which is used on a buffet table or in the middle of the dining table. You may have heard of the terms “calabash cousin” or “calabash family,” this has been led from the use of Calabash in Hawai`i, indicating an extended family grown up around shared meals and close friendship. 


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Recommended Reading List for "Celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month," May 2021


“With charm and plenty of puns to keep kids giggling throughout the story, Margo Leipua‘ala Sorenson’s Little Calabash reminds readers that even though they may be small, they still have much to offer. Kids will empathize with Little Calabash’s wish to be given a job on this important family day and will cheer on his confidence and initiative when the other kitchen utensils and appliances try to hold him back.” (Celebrate Picture Books)

“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.” (Jama's Alphabet Soup)

Little Calabash has a Brave Little Toaster feel to me with the kitchen appliances talking. I love how determined Little Calabash is and that it teaches children to never give up. It also shows that even small things have a place. Little Calabash is just the right size for Keoki. To be honest, before reading this, I didn't know what a calabash was so this book was educational for both me and my daughter. There's also a glossary in the back for terms some may be unfamiliar with. Final Verdict: Little Calabash is an adorable story that shows you can do anything you put your mind to. I would recommend it for those who loves stories about different cultures and uplifting books to teach children to be strong. (Bethany Wicker, YA and Kids Book Central)

Little Calabash
Welcome to the Islands
online store:
Barnes & Noble
Margo's treasured calabash
Margo's treasured calabash
Little Calabash coloring page
Little Calabash coloring page
(click to download PDF)
Calvin Gets the Last Word
illustrated by Mike Deas
Tilbury House, October, 2020
(distributed by W.W. Norton & Co. 800-233-4830)
ages 4-9

Calvin’s dictionary is proud to go wherever Calvin goes — the breakfast table, school, baseball practice, and home again — helping Calvin search for the perfect word to describe his super-annoying older brother. After looking all day, Calvin finally finds the word he’s looking for at bedtime. And when he does, the dictionary is as surprised as you will be.


“See that kid reading a book? That’s Calvin. And I’m the book. I’m Calvin’s dictionary, and I’m tired.” So begins this book’s-eye view of a young boy’s love of words — a tale told by his well-worn dictionary, which he takes everywhere, even to baseball practice. But this is no paean to purple prose. Calvin’s devotion to finding le mot juste is about getting revenge (a.k.a. “retaliation”) on his “rascally,” “tricky” older brother, whose annoying habit is waiting till Calvin fills his mouth with food or drink to tell a joke. (Our narrator has the broccoli-clotted, milk-stained pages to prove it.)” (New York Times)

“A fun story that promotes vocabulary development and dictionary use.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“As a word nerd, I love that the narrator of this book is a DICTIONARY! Such a fun story and I adore the illustrations by Mike Deas.” (Debbie Ohi, author/illustrator of Sam & Eva, Where Are My Books, and I'm Bored)

"I am so glad I got to read this! It's positively adorable and wonderfully unique. I love that it's told from the dictionary's perspective, which is a great twist. ... Overall, a wonderful book, heartfelt and fun, and perfect for classroom read or at home with some siblings." (Meradeth Houston, author, The Coincidence-Makers)

“I love this heartwarming book as it blends fun, education, imagination, and a love of family into the tale.  Highly recommended. Storywraps Rating = 5 +++ HUGS!” (Babybookworms Blogspot)

Calvin Gets the Last Word
(local booksellers)
Barnes & Noble
Essays and Interviews
Jama's Alphabet Soup, 29 Sep 2020
Jena Benton,
8 Oct 2020
Writers' Rumpus,
6 Oct 2020
Celebrate Picture Books
10 Nov 2020
Capistrano Dispatch
18 Nov 2020

Kirby Larson's
Friend Friday

July 2021

Spaghetti Smiles
illustrated by David Harrington
Pelican Publishing, Fall 2014
ages 4-8

Jake must find a new neighbor for his Uncle Rocco's crazy, mixed-up Italian restaurant, but it won't be easy! Everyone loves to eat at the restaurant, but no one wants to move next door. When Jake discovers a new bookstore in town, he decides he has to find a way to convince the bookstore owner to be Uncle Rocco's perfect new neighbor.


Spaghetti Smiles is a charming children's picturebook about a family dilemma. Jake's Uncle Rocco runs a popular but slightly loopy restaurant. Rocco loves fun and games, perhaps a little too much; he has a reputation for being a mix-up! The restaurant needs a new neighbor, someone who likes to have fun; otherwise it will have to close down. But who would want to have their business next door to a man known for accidentally mixing Italian food into the oddest of situations? Jake investigates one business after another, without success. The down-on-her-luck bookstore owner is his last prospect; could reading and Italian food be a match made in heaven? Exuberant, playful illustrations perfectly set the mood of this boisteriously funny picturebook. (Midwest Book Review)

"This playful, lip-smacking story has been cooked up with just the right ingredients." (Read the full post.) (Jama's Alphabet Soup)

Margo is thrilled to have Spaghetti Smiles in Ambassador, the official magazine of the National Italian American Foundation. (Read the full review.)

Spaghetti Smiles
Pelican Publishers
Aloha for Carol Ann
illustrated by Priscilla Garcia Burris
Marimba Books, March 2011

Beautiful palm trees, pretty flowers and a warm breeze are all waiting to welcome 8-year-old Carol Ann to her new school in Hawaii. But Carol Ann doesn’t want a new school. She doesn’t want new friends, or palm trees, or a warm breeze. She wants her old friends. She wants her old home. She wants things the way they used to be. How will she remember her new classmates’ names? Who will she play with at recess? How will she ever feel at home in this new place? Then the teacher introduces Carol Ann to the term, “aloha.” She says the little word means “hello,” “welcome,” and a lot more. Carol Ann finds out for herself just how much “aloha” means as she makes a place for herself at her new school.

Instructional strategies for Aloha for Carol Ann

Margo Says:
“Many multicultural children’s books often feature children of color who are the minority in the schools, but this book, based on my ten years living in Hawaii and teaching at President Obama’s alma mater, Punahou School, tells the story of Carol Ann, a haole third-grader, turning the tables on the usual multicultural tale. I wanted to explore what would happen when a third-grader had to move to an entirely new environment, where nothing was like what she was used to. I thought Hawaii would be the perfect background, and our family’s experiences with this aloha spirit inspired much of the story.”


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Recommended Reading List for "Kindness," Nov 2020


"In this story of starting at a new school and making friends, not even a beautiful Hawaiian setting can conquer Carol Ann's unhappiness about her current situation: "She didn't want fluffy, pink flowers. Yuck! She didn't want warm trade winds. Nuh-Uh!" But with the support of her new teacher and her unfailingly friendly classmates, Carol Ann is soon saying "Aloha" with the rest of them. … the book should prove reassuring to children in similar situations—even those in far less exciting locales." (Publishers Weekly)

Aloha for Carol Ann
Read Marimba Books'
interview with Margo.

Aloha, Priscilla Garcia Burris!
Thanks for the illustrations making Aloha for Carol Ann
as bright and colorful as Hawaii itself.

Learn more about Priscilla.

Read Marimba Books' interview with Priscilla.

Priscilla Garcia Burris
Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream
Illustrated by Katalin Szegedi
The Liturgical Press, Fall 2006
ISBN 978-0-8146-3004-4

How can Ambrose, the medieval mouse, stop his daydreaming long enough to help build the cathedral and earn the respect of his mouse cousins?

"Written for the enjoyment of children ages 4-10, Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream is a wonderful picturebook about a small mouse with big dreams. Ambrose the mouse yearns to follow the traditions of his mouse family and help build a gorgeous cathedral, but his daydreams prevent him from practicing the somersaults that startle tired workers and help them stay awake. Ambrose's dream is no less than to help William the Master Builder find his dream. A lavishly illustrated story about inspiration, courage, and the wonder of seeing architectural beauty gradually take shape."

Click here to read the story behind the story of Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream.

You may order Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream from Liturgical Press or . . .

Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream
(local booksellers)
Liturgical Press

Ambrose and the Princess
Illustrated by Katalin Szegedi
The Liturgical Press, Fall 2005
ISBN 978-0-8146-3043-3

2006 Catholic Press Association Award winner

How can Ambrose, the medieval mouse, use his talent of paying attention to "the small things" to bring the new princess happiness so she won't leave, but will stay to help the convent schoolgirls?

"American Library Association award-winning author Margo Sorenson and 2005 Hungarian Illustrator of the Year Katalin Szegedi present Ambrose and the Princess, an enchanting fable about little mouse named Ambrose, who sees that the kind and wonderful princess of the land is unhappy. She is so distressed she might depart, yet the church, the convent, and the poor dearly need her kindness. Determined to make things right, Ambrose sets out on an adventure to help the princess and her all her subjects. The delightful color illustrations add the perfect charming touch to this original story in the style of a classic fairy tale." (Midwest Book Review)

Click here to see an illustration from Ambrose and the Princess.

You may order Ambrose and the Princess from Liturgical Press or . . .

Ambrose and the Princess
(local booksellers)
Liturgical Press

I'm very fortunate to have
Katalin Szegedi illustrating
my Ambrose picture books.
You'll enjoy taking
a look at her website.

Click here!

Read Katalin's blog.

Katalin Szegedi
Copyright 2002-, Margo Sorenson. All information presented on these pages is the intellectual property of Margo Sorenson. Book excerpts are copyrighted by the publisher. Information and excerpts may not be used in any form—written, verbal, or electronically—without the permission of Margo Sorenson or her publishers. If you would like to quote any portion of the website, please contact the author or the publisher by using links provided on this site to request permission.
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