Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 11, 2021

Book Giveaway: LITTLE CALABASH by Margo Sorenson

Margo Sorenson has a new  picture book titled, LITTLE CALABASH, illustrated by ANNETH LAGAMO and published by Island Heritage. They have agreed to send a book with one lucky winner living in the US.

All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Thank you for helping Margo and Anneth.


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 Little 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. 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.


My book journey with LITTLE CALABASH is a lot like Little Calabash’s own journey toward his goal—trying, failing, trying again, despite many disappointments, and finally, achieving his goal. 😊This story first began as “LITTLE CUP” in 2011. Writing about kids overcoming obstacles and becoming part of a team is near and dear to my heart, but, in that first version, the story just didn’t seem to resonate with editors. I think it was because it didn’t have a “hook,” something that would give it some “snap,” to set it apart from the rest of the manuscripts that editors were receiving. It was sort of an “oatmeal” story, as I used to tell my English students. Then, it occurred to me that if I could give it a Hawai’ian setting (because we lived in Hawai’i for ten years and return as often as we can), thus giving it some snap, that might help it to stand out from the crowd. More important, I could also share some of the of Hawai’ian culture that means so much to me and my family, and Little Calabash took front and center stage.

That was a major revision and a whole new lens from which to view the story! I picked a calabash to substitute for the cup, because calabashes can symbolize “ohana”–family–in Hawai’i. In the islands, “calabash cousin” (friends who often share meals together from the same calabash serving dish) is a beloved expression, and I love the symbolism of shared meals, because they bring people together. We have fond memories of all the shared meals (often with chopsticks, of course!) with our friends on the islands….precious times. When people introduce their friends as “calabash cousins,” you know they are dear friends. As we all have rediscovered during these past months, family and friends are to be treasured. So, in LITTLE CALABASH, the fact that a calabash is so important speaks to the importance of ohana–family feeling–which is a special quality of life in Hawai’i, one that we treasure, along with all people in Hawai’i.

Once Little Calabash became the hero, I was able to finish the new version in less than a month, whereas Little Cup languished by himself for about ten years in various stages of revision. All the revisions I did after the transformation from cup to calabash revolved around including facets of island life and food to create the Hawai’ian ambiance, and to reflect the joy found in ohana and aloha. That was really enjoyable revision! It brought back so many cherished memories, and I loved being able to share so much of the precious culture with future young readers. Maybe some of you who are reading this post may take a second look at some of your own works-in-progress that seem to be stalled and find a new setting and background that will re-energize and revitalize your stories—it can be a fun ride!

I submitted LITTLE CALABASH to only a few Hawai’i publishers, and only three months later (which, was, as you well know, lightning-quick in publishing!) in December 2018, I received an email from Island Heritage, my dream publisher for the manuscript. I was elated! The editor’s comment was, “Some of the [acquisition committee’s positive] comments included the strong island ties and that it’s fun to read aloud.”

The only revisions the editor wanted were regarding my egregious (!) use of puns. I did cut a few out, but, because our grandchildren, the Adorables, love puns (“It’s a jokey-kind of book,” they said), and I couldn’t deprive them of that 😉, I begged to keep almost all of them, and my editor graciously agreed. 😉 Additionally, the creative director suggested putting in a glossary of some of the terms that may not be familiar to all young Mainland readers. That did make me smile, because those were so much a part of our life in the islands that it didn’t occur to me that kids who weren’t from Hawai’i might not know what they were, like starfruit and haupia pudding. The publisher also wanted me to use my Hawai’ian middle name, Leipua’ala, (which means, “lasting gifts for children”), given to me by dear Hawai’ian family friends in ancient Hawai’ian tradition, which made it even more special. It’s the only book of mine that uses it on the cover.

Island Heritage uses their own illustrators on staff, and I couldn’t be happier with Anneth Lagamo’s beautiful work! I love everything about her illustrations—they are so whimsical. She gives humdrum kitchen appliances such vibrancy and life, (will you ever look at a can opener in the same way again?), and she drew the calabashes each with their own personalities—they are very special, and that did surprise me. My favorite illustration is the one showing the joy on Keoki’s face when he gets his own little calabash for his birthday cupcake–mirrored by the joyful expression on Little Calabash’s own face.

The importance of those special feelings of aloha and ohana in LITTLE CALABASH were affirmed for me by its selection by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for its Recommended Reading List for “Celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Month, May, 2021.” I hope young readers will experience the same joy along with Keoki and Little Calabash when they themselves read LITTLE CALABASH, and they will treasure their ohanas—their families—with aloha. Oh. And maybe giggle over some of those terrible puns, too!


Author of over thirty traditionally-published books for young readers, Margo Sorenson was born in Washington, DC, and spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, devouring books, Italian food, and still speaks (or tries!) four-and-a-half languages. She finished her school years in California, graduating from the University of California at Los Angeles. After teaching high school and middle school and raising a family of two daughters, Margo is now a full-time writer, writing primarily for young people of all ages, toddlers through high schoolers.

Margo has won national recognition and awards for her books, including ALA Quick Pick Nominations, SCBWI Recommended Reading List selections, recommendations from Multicultural Review, and was named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction. After having lived in Hawaii and Minnesota, she now lives with her husband live in Southern California. She is represented by Dan Cramer of the Flannery Literary Agency.

Margo enjoys writing for young readers since she believes they are ready for new ideas and experiences, and they really have fun “living” the lives of the characters in books. A National Milken Educator Award recipient, Margo always has a great time meeting with her readers in person or virtually in school and library settings from Minnesota to California and Hawaii, as well as internationally.

Besides winning recognition and awards for her books from various groups, including the American Library Association, Margo was invited to donate and archive her working papers with the internationally-known children’s literature collection, the Kerlan Collection, at the University of Minnesota.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys visiting her grandchildren, playing golf, reading, watching sports, traveling, and hearing from her readers. Just published in 2020 are her newest picture books, LITTLE CALABASH (Island Heritage) and CALVIN’S LAST WORD (Tilbury House), which was chosen by the New York Times in November, 2020, as a featured picture book about books. Margo’s most recent book, a YA/Adult novel titled SECRETS IN TRANSLATION, was published in 2018 by Fitzroy Books, and takes place in Italy, receiving wonderful reviews from such entities such as the National Italian American Foundation magazine, The Ambassador.

You can find Margo online here:

Margo’s website:

Twitter:  @ipapaverison


Instagram: @margosorensonwriter




LITTLE CALABASH can be ordered here:

Welcome to the Islands (Island Heritage) Online Store:

Island Heritage Customer Service Ordering: 800-468-2800

Barnes & Noble special order—call the store directly to order



Anneth Lagamo is an artist born and raised in Hawaii. In 1999, she moved to San Francisco to study at the Academy of Art College where she received a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in 2002. She has illustrated numerous books and greeting cards and gift items for Island Heritage.


Thank you Margo for sharing your book and journey with us. I loved reading about how your revised your original story to showcase the Hawai’ian culture and how doing that made the book come to life. I had heard of the word, “Calabash,” but I had never heard of “Calabash Cousins” and the meaning of that. Adults can learn so much from children’s books. Children will enjoy this book and its fun illustrations. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. this is incredibly cute!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks like a lovely book!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Marcie Kremer Romance.


  4. This will be perfect for my great nieces who are in Hawaii right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So cute! Love the idea of calabash and calabash cousins! Congratulations!

    I shared on Twitter and I follow by email. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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