All About the Philippines

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One of the most exciting releases this year is Tuttle Publishing’s “All About the Philippines” by Gidget Roceles Jimenez and Corazon Dandan-Albano.

Tuttle Publishing is the world’s leading publisher of Asian books, and “All About the Philippines” is the latest volume in its “All About Asia” series for children. The series, which includes (so far) volumes on Japan, Indonesia, Korea, and China, showcases the rich culture and history of Asian countries.

Here’s why this book is worth checking out.

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It’s fun. I initially thought this would be a non-fiction book, but it straddles the line between fiction and non-fiction. While the book presents a lot of fun facts about the Philippines, parts of it are presented in narrative, in the voices of three Filipino children: Mary, Jaime, and Ari. While the book is highly informative, Gidget Roceles Jimenez presents the information in bite-sized (non-intimidating) chunks, in a tone that is friendly and upbeat, making the text enjoyable, accessible, and easy to relate to.

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It showcases cultural diversity. Mary, Jaime, and Ari may be first cousins (their moms are sisters), but they also represent three different Filipino cultures and geographical regions. Mary is Filipino-Chinese from Mandaluyong; Jaime is a mestizo from Cebu; and Ari is Muslim, from Zamboanga. I like how the the three children take us through their daily lives, taking us on a tour of their environs and showing us a peek of their beliefs and traditions.

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It’s comprehensive. It’s not a thick book by any means, but it covers a lot of ground in 62 pages, from the origins of the Filipino people, Philippine history (nothing past World War II, though, but then again it also gets more complicated after that), geography (including tourist destinations, natural resources, and environmental conditions), languages, folklore, religious beliefs, occupations, toys and games, customs and traditions, festivals, and of course, food. It’s no small feat to put together a book that gives the reader a comprehensive look at an entire country (and I hazard it’s much harder to condense everything in a single volume than an encyclopedic set!), and I think “All About the Philippines” is a success on that score. It shows the careful deliberation that went into its concept and organization, at the same time making it appealing to its primary audience.

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It’s beautifully illustrated. From cover to cover, this book is filled with full-color, watercolor illustrations by Kora Dandan Albano, and they’re simply breathtaking with their vibrant colors and amazing detail (Easter egg: Ari’s Pilandok shirt) that must have taken a Herculean amount of work. Not only do the illustrations keep the visual interest going; they also provide useful cues for when the point of view changes, or when the text mentions terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader.

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“All About the Philippines” is a wonderful book for young readers — Filipino or otherwise
— and makes an excellent introduction to the Philippines and a springboard for learning more about our country. Beautifully produced (hardcover and glossy pages!), it’s a must-have for both school and home libraries and will last through many readings.

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***

All About the Philippines, advance copy, 5/5 stars

Update: Available exclusively at National Book Store after the August 15 launch, ~P550.

Many thanks to CJ Regala-Casuga of Tuttle Publishing – Manila office, as well as my friend Iya Santos for facilitating this.

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