Maui News

Lori Abreu reads ‘Moʻo and Koholā’ to MEO Head Start children

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Lori Abreu poses for a photo with the children of MEO’s Head Start site in Makawao after reading her book “Moʻo and Koholā.”

Author and early childhood specialist Lori Abreu read her children’s book “Moʻo and Koholā” to the preschoolers at the Maui Economic Opportunity Head Start Makawao center on Thursday.

Published in January, humpback whales Moʻo and Koholā develop a loving friendship in the waters off Lahaina and “teach us how friends can be different, compassionate and share aloha,”  Abreu said in a press release. 

“Their ocean emergencies help us explore fear, trust, bravery and appreciation,” she says. “Our characters teach us about Hawaiian values as they problem-solve and overcome challenges with one another and their larger community.”


Nicki Barsamian illustrated the book, which features Lahaina landmarks before the fire like the Pioneer Inn, Banyan Tree and the courthouse, and helped guide Abreu through the self-publication process. Her website ( compliments the book with three songs from Kalaʻe Camarillo and information about whales. The book is appropriate for ages 4 to 8.

Children’s author Lori Abreu reads her book, “Moʻo and Koholā,” to the preschoolers at Maui Economic Opportunity’s Head Start site in Makawao on Thursday.

The author, who has a 37-year career in early childhood education on Maui, was invited to read  by lead teacher Jennifer McGurn. 

“She really did a great job engaging the kids and explaining to them what it means to be Maui Strong and how important it is to come together as a community to help in times of need,” said McGurn on Thursday. “We just read that story again this morning – one of the kids’ new favorites.”


Inspired by a victim of the Lahaina wildfires whom she met at a shelter, Abreu modified a humpback whale’s tale that she had been telling for years in the hopes of highlighting the strength and resilience of the community in the wake of the tragedy. She has contributed proceeds from the sale of her book to west side schools and the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation. 

Abreu donated a copy of the book to the Makawao Head Start site.

The Head Start center, located at the Eddie Tam Memorial Complex, offers the summer program – at no cost to families – to 3 and 4 year olds through July 5. The summer program is funded by the County of Maui.

Humpback whales Moʻo and Koholā are the lead characters in Lori Abreu’s new children’s book. With Lahaina and the waters offshore as the backdrop, the whales develop a loving friendship and “teach us how friends can be different, compassionate and share aloha,” she says.

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