The Learning curve

A rare treat for readers, writers, illustrators

The much-awaited Philippine Readers and Writers Festival of the National Book Store and Raffles Makati, now on its fifth year, is happening on Aug. 10-12. It promises three days of book signings and conversations on literature, culture and the reading and writing of books. Outstanding Filipino writers and best-selling international authors are special guests, like young adult novelist Adi Alsaid and Archie Comics co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit.

What is of special interest to me is the news that another featured guest is 2018 Newbery Medal winner Erin Entrada Kelly, the first Filipino-American to be so honored in the Newbery’s 96 years of awards, for her third novel, “Hello, Universe.” She is also scheduled to visit International School Manila.


Kelly is cited for incorporating Philippine folk material in her books. “Hello, Universe” is the story of the friendship of three sixth graders in the course of one dramatic day. Kelly’s new novel “You Go First,” meanwhile, has two characters playing an online game of scrabble, which provides them a lifeline as they go through challenges. Another novel in progress is a fantasy based on Philippine folklore.

A most fortunate coincidence is that the delightful illustrations in her award-winning novel are by a Brooklyn-based Filipino, Isabel “Pepper”  Roxas, who was introduced to Kelly by her editor. Kelly said of Roxas: “(She) is so incredibly talented! I feel so fortunate to have a strong partnership with such a skilled artist, especially since she is Filipina.” Roxas also illustrated “The Land of Forgotten Girls” and “You Go First.”


In Kelly’s acceptance speech delivered at the annual conference of the American Library Association in New Orleans on June 24, 2018, she looked back at her childhood in Kansas and how different she felt in a school with no Filipinos nor Asians. It hurts to remember the questions thrown her way, she recalled, such as “What are you? Does your family eat dog?”

“I write books for my characters,” Kelly said. “For Virgil Salinas, who is shy and lonely and always picked last for basketball. Or Valencia, who wants to be the next Jane Goodall, but doesn’t have a friend in the world. In ‘You Go First,’ the main characters, Charlotte and Ben, sit alone at lunch. I write for them, too. Because I was—and am—all of them… My greatest wish as a writer is that the person reading my book—or any book, for that matter—feels less alone. Because I know what that feels like…”

And we have books, she added, “So we can meet those people. Walk in their shoes. See our reflections. So we can discover that we never struggle alone.”

The International Children’s Content Rights Fair (ICCRF) to be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Nov. 29-Dec. 2 is the first fair on copyright and content for children and youth for Asean countries. Now on its second year, it aims to bring together the 10 Asean countries to interact and collaborate as a bloc at the international level.

A feature in this year’s fair is the Asean Illustration Award, which is open to both professional and amateur illustrators in the region. There are four major categories with attractive cash prizes: The Asean Children’s Book Illustrator Award of Excellence, $5,000  and a plaque from  HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn; The Asean Children’s Book Illustrator Best in Fiction, $2,500; The Asean Children’s Book Illustrator Best in  Non-fiction, $2,500; and  The Asean Children’s Book Illustrator Rising Star Award, $500 for each of five awardees.

Entries may be submitted online until Aug. 31 for works executed or published between Nov. 1, 2017 and Aug. 31, 2018. All artworks are welcome in black and white or color, and produced using any technique, including computer graphics. A copy of the published book must be mailed and received by Aug. 31. For more details, visit http://iccrfthailand.com/rules-and-regulations/.

It must be remembered that we had a winner from the Philippines last year—Joffrey “Pepot” Atienza, illustrator of “Malong: the Magic Cloth,” written by Mary Ann Ordinario. Atienza won the Asean Children’s Best Book Illustrator in Fiction.


Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.



Subscribe to Inquirer Opinion Newsletter
Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Adi Alsaid, books, National Book Store, Raffles, Writers
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.