February 22 – It’s Bake for Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

Mid-winter is a perfect time to get out your favorite recipes, gather delicious ingredients, and bake with your kids! Not only does baking together teach valuable cooking skills, but it can bring a family closer. Talk about old family recipes and find new favorites. Of course the best part of baking together is eating the scrumptious treats afterward!

Little Calabash

Written by Margo Leipua’ala Sorenson | Illustrated by Anneth Lagamo

 

As Keoki’s mom rushed around the kitchen making mango cupcakes, guava frosting, haupia pudding, and starfruit cookies for her son’s birthday party, Little Calabash sat hidden behind the big calabash bowls on the shelf and sighed. The mixer, spoons, rolling pin, and even other bowls were needed. Everyone had a part to play in Keoki’s party… “everyone but him.”

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Image copyright Anneth Lagamo, text copyright Margo Leipua’ala Sorenson. Courtesy of Island Heritage.

Little Calabash asked when it might be his turn, but the cocoa mug just told him, “‘get a handle on yourself,’” and the refrigerator said, “‘You need to chill out.’” Little Calabash just wanted to be special, to be useful. One of the large calabashes said that he just wasn’t big enough to help out. When the coffee pot saw how sad Little Calabash was, she reassured him and told him to keep believing in himself.

But Little Calabash didn’t know how Keoki’s mom would ever see him stuck behind the other items on the shelf. None of the other kitchen tools seemed to want to help, so he began rocking himself side-to-side and finally, he “wiggled his way from behind all the big calabashes.” Even though he had found his way to the edge of the shelf, some in the kitchen didn’t think he had what it took to be part of the birthday celebration.

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Image copyright Anneth Lagamo, text copyright Margo Leipua’ala Sorenson. Courtesy of Island Heritage.

When Keoki’s mother came towards the cupboard, Little Calabash hoped she’d see him. Instead “she took two big calabashes off the shelf.” Soon, it was almost party time. When Keoki saw the cupcakes, he asked if his could be put in a calabash. His mom wasn’t sure they had one the right size. Then Keoki reminded her that they had a little calabash. When she went to look, there was Little Calabash, nearly tipping off the edge. Keoki placed his special cupcake into the bowl and Little Calabash beamed. He’d always known he could be a big part of Keoki’s special day.

A Glossary describing the foods served at Keoki’s birthday party follows the story.

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Image copyright Anneth Lagamo, text copyright Margo Leipua’ala Sorenson. Courtesy of Island Heritage.

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.

Anneth Lagamo’s vibrant kitchen will engage kids as the utensils, appliances, and dishware get ready to celebrate Keoki’s birthday. Readers will enjoy scanning the pages to match the speakers of Sorenson’s clever puns with the characters. Kids can also clearly see Little Calabash’s sadness at being overlooked, determination to be noticed, and happiness at being chosen at last. Infused with the colors of the Hawaiian Islands, where the story is set, the illustrations will entice kids to learn more about this beautiful area.

Ages 4 – 8

Island Heritage, 2021 | ISBN 978-1617104459

Discover more about Margo Sorenson and her books on her website.

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

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Sweet Hawaiian Fruit Coloring Page

 

From watermelon to strawberries to starfruit, the treats are sweet in Hawaii! Enjoy this printable coloring page then find more from Nico Made and Honolulu Family.

Sweet Fruit Coloring Page 

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You can order Little Calabash from Island Heritage

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress since 1989, Young Readers Week is celebrated during the second week of November to improve literacy and raise awareness of the benefits of reading. Schools participate in setting reading goals for their students who are then rewarded for meeting them. Adults are encouraged to provide a variety of reading materials for their kids – picture books, novels, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, whatever will get them excited about reading. 

Calvin Gets the Last Word

Written by Margo Sorenson | Illustrated by Mike Deas

 

The moment Calvin wakes up, he grabs his dictionary and heads to the kitchen for breakfast. While Calvin may be well-rested, his dictionary tells readers that it is tired. “Why? Because Calvin loves words—I mean REALLY loves words,” the dictionary says. Calvin won’t rest until he’s found the perfect “word for everything—especially his rascally brother.” At breakfast, Calvin has just taken a big gulp of milk. It’s just the moment his brother’s been waiting for to tell his super funny joke. You can imagine what happens—and that’s why the dictionary’s page that contains the word revenge is soaked.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

But is revenge the right word for Calvin’s brother? Not quite. On the school bus as the kids are tossing a backpack, talking, laughing, and hanging over the seats, Calvin’s dictionary offers up mayhem, but that doesn’t completely describe his brother either. As Calvin struggles in geography class and passes notes during library story time, his dictionary helps describe the mood, but those words don’t really apply to his brother. On the way home, though, Calvin does discover a good word for himself when he stands up to a bully and helps a kindergartener.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

At Little League practice, the dictionary reveals, Calvin “loves to crush the ball during batting practice, sending it over the fence. That’s why the page that reads pulverize has grass stains on it.” Could pulverize be the right word for his brother? While Calvin thinks it could be fun, it’s not exactly right.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

That night dinner turns into a repeat of breakfast—only in broccoli green. When Calvin goes to bed, he sits for a while, thinking. Then he grabs his exhausted dictionary and a glass of water and sneaks into his brother’s room. The dictionary thinks it knows what’s going to happen and riffles through its pages to find the right word, unconcerned whether it stays dry or not. And then, there on the page, is the perfect word! But wait, that doesn’t fit because now the brothers are laughing. The dictionary tries flipping to another page and a better word, but Calvin has it beat as he turns the pages and discovers the exact right word to describe his brother. What are all of these words? Come flip through Calvin Gets the Last Word yourself to find out!

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

In her funny and unique mashup of sibling rivalry and vocabulary, Margo Sorenson offers kids an engaging story of the singular type of love brothers share uncovered little by little through word-building. Calvin’s dictionary makes a sincere and charming guide through high-interest words that lend panache and nuance to events throughout Calvin’s day even if they don’t quite describe his brother. Astute kids may notice that the words the dictionary chooses for Calvin’s brother proves his loyalty to his favorite reader. Calvin’s spewed milk, whispered secrets, and home run batting add up to a real kid that readers will love. The words that the dictionary finds are fun to learn and say and will spark an enthusiasm in readers to do their own flipping through the dictionary and thesaurus. Sorenson’s endearing ending rings true with a word kids are sure to embrace.

Mike Deas’ glasses-wearing and sweat suit-clad Calvin, whose dictionary is always at the ready to define his experiences, is a character readers will respond to. Images of the sprayed milk and broccoli, rockin’ school bus, library story rug, and baseball field are full of familiar details and plenty of action. As Calvin prepares to play his trick on his brother Deas gives kids a cutaway view of the house from above, letting them tiptoe through the maze of rooms with Calvin. The final scenes of the brothers checking out the dictionary together in the light of a bedside lamp is sibling devotion at its best.

A delightful family story that can stir a love of language, Calvin Gets the Last Word would be a favorite addition to home libraries. The book is highly recommended for school and classroom bookshelves to enhance language arts, writing, grammar, and vocabulary lessons and for public library collections as well.

Ages 6 – 8

Tilbury House Publishers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0884488224

Discover more about Margo Sorenson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mike Deas, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Young Readers Day Activity

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“Big Words” Word Search

 

Knowing and using a wide range of words allows you to express yourself in exact—and often—fun ways. Find the 26 “big” words—one for each letter of the alphabet—in this printable word search puzzle.

“Big Words” Word Search Puzzle“Big Words” Puzzle Solution!

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You can find Calvin Gets the Last Word at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review