The Learning curve

Our very own children’s books to be proud of

I could not think of a better way to end the year than with a list of Philippine children’s titles that deserve more fanfare and public attention. Even in developed countries, book publishing has emerged alive and well—so here’s to books and good reading into the new year.

“A Basket in War” by Mary Ann Ordinario, illustrated by Aldy C. Aguirre, ABC Educational Development Center, 2018. Based in Kidapawan, the publisher has every right to her proud claim of being the first children’s book publisher in Mindanao. Ordinario has a knack for writing stories that resonate in other Asian countries, thus her books on war, the environment, Muslim culture, etc. have been translated in other languages. “A Basket in War” is a true story of a child kept alive in the safety of a basket with bananas and dried leaves.


“Karapat Dapat: Child, know your rights!”  edited by Liza Flores and Isa Nazareno, with text and translation by May Tobias-Papa, art by Ang Ink, Canvas and Ang Ink, 2018. This book, which every home and classroom should have, has rewritten in a child-friendly fashion pertinent articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN in 1989. It is not your usual bureaucratic document written in cold and stiff prose, but a collector’s item with striking artwork from children’s book illustrators and meaningful activity pages between cited articles. For the adults, it is a checklist of how well we are helping or hindering the promulgation of children’s rights. Article 28 reads: “However high your dreams may be, you can reach them. You have a right to be given the opportunity to go to school, and attain the highest level of education that you can.” Article 29 reminds us: “Your education should help you use and develop your talents and abilities. It should help you live peacefully, with a deep love for the environment, and respect for other people.”  How I wish we could give ourselves a pat on the back for these articles.

“Marawi, Land of the Brave” by Melissa Salva, illustrated by Kathleen Sareena Dagum, translated into Maranao by Lawambae Basaula-Lumna, Bookmark, 2018. This book is based on interviews run by the Philippine Business for Social Progress with child evacuees in Marawi who, despite today’s still trying circumstances, look to a future with hope, where their dreams of being doctors, nurses, engineers, business owners and Muslim scholars will be realized. This Marawi Storybook Series is part of the Gift of Reading Project of the PBSP for the young survivors of the 2017 Marawi conflict. Other titles in the series are: “Lost and Found: A Song of Marawi,” “Water Lilies for Marawi,” “The Day the Typhoon Came.”


“Si Kian” by Weng D. Cahiles, illustrated by Aldy C. Aguirre, researched by Kimberly B. dela Cruz, The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, 2017. We all know the tragic story of Kian Loyd delos Santos that led to public outrage, and, more recently, the conviction of policemen who had made false claims of self-defense. It’s vindication enough that the book is classified under “human rights/drugs/violence/murder.” It’s also a successful foil against fake news regarding the circumstances of Kian’s death. This is the only Philippine title included in The White Ravens 2018 catalogue of the Munich-based International Youth Library, which has a selection of 200 notable children’s and young adult books from 59 countries published in 38 languages.

“Sirena Ba ’Yan?” by Candy Gourlay, illustrated by Francesca Chessa, Adarna, 2018. The Dugong on the beach insists she is a beautiful mermaid who sings a terrible mermaid song as proof. The children playmates are not convinced. This is a Philippine edition of the Otter-Barry book that’s been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal, an annual British literary award for “distinguished illustration in a book for children.”

London-based Gourlay is better known as a young adult novelist (and Candy Quimpo of the Inquirer). Her latest novel, “Bone Talk,” has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Award, which honors English-language books by writers based in Britain and Ireland. It was formerly known as the Whitbread Book Awards, until 2006 when Costa Coffee, a subsidiary of Whitbread, took over sponsorship.

Bravo to Philippine writing!

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




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