Every year, the third Tuesday of July marks the celebration of National Children’s Book Day, as spearheaded by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), the organization committed to the development of children’s literature in the Philippines, in commemoration of the anniversary of the publication of Jose Rizal’s The Monkey and the Turtle in Trubner’s Oriental Record in London.
Last Sunday, in true “Anna and the French Kiss” style, I had lunch at a French boulangerie with none other than New York Times Bestselling YA author Stephanie Perkins!
Stephanie Perkins’ popular debut novel “Anna and the French Kiss” (hailed as NPR’s Best Teen Reads 2010 and CYBILS Finalist for YA Fiction in 2011) features Anna Oliphant, who is shipped off by her parents to a boarding school in Paris. Struggling to adapt to her new environment, Anna reluctantly makes new friends, including Etienne St. Clair. Anna and Etienne grow closer together, but Anna is afraid to confront her true feelings for Etienne because he is already in a relationship.
Meanwhile, “Lola and the Boy Next Door” (included in the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2012 and the ALA Book List 2013) is set in San Francisco, where budding designer Lola Nolan is confronted by her past with the return of her next door neighbor (and first heartbreak), Cricket Bell. Lola is beset by a turbulent storm of emotions as she tries to deal with Cricket’s renewed presence in her life, her relationship with her unconventional family, and her own identity.
It’s always fascinating to learn about the creative process of a children’s book creator, so I was drawn to Il Sung Na’s session on “Korean Picture Books: The Power of Picture” at the AFCC Writers and Illustrators conference last month.
Il Sung Na is the writer and illustrator of several acclaimed picture books, including “Zzzzz: A Book of Sleep,” “The Thingamabob,”" “Brrrr: A Book of Winter,” “Hide & Seek,” and “Shhhh: A Book of Babies.” Born in Seoul, he studied illustration in London and is now based in Baltimore, USA. His illustration work is mixed media and digital.
I got to interview New York Times bestselling YA author Jenny Han during her Philippine book signing tour this weekend, something I had been looking forward to after finishing her latest novel, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is about Lara Jean Song, who writes secret letters to each boy she has ever loved as a way of moving on and purging them out of her system. To Lara Jean’s mortification, her letters somehow disappear and get sent out, making their way to five boys, including her next door neighbor Josh, who happens to be her sister’s boyfriend.
I’m not sure if it’s some unspoken rite of passage among teenage girls, but I wrote these kinds of letters at that age, too (some I actually sent, some I still keep, but they will never see the light of day! :D), and I’m sure countless of other readers have done it as well. Lara Jean is perhaps on the young side of 16 compared to heroines of the same age in other YA novels, but I found all her little quirks charming, and I think ultimately more relatable, at least for the young Filipino reader. I enjoyed the candidness of the writing, the heartfelt emotion behind the words, and how the novel successfully captures high school awkwardness, boy crushes, friendship, cultural identity, and family.
Children’s writer and illustrator Sally Gardner was one of the major reasons I decided to attend the Asian Festival of Children’s Content this year — I have loved her historical novels “I, Coriander” and ” The Red Necklace” (and I read her Carnegie Medal winner, “Maggot Moon” on the flight over), and the prospect of actually meeting her in person was quite a thrill.
So, on the first day of the AFCC 2014 Writers and Illustrators Conference, I woke up before the sun was up (in SG, mind, so that’s like 7 am) and took the train all the way from the end of the purple line to catch the first session: “Magical Children: The Key to Story” featuring Sally Gardner.