Every third Tuesday of July, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), the organization committed to the development of children’s literature in the Philippines, leads the celebration of National Children’s Book Day, commemorating the anniversary of the publication of Jose Rizal’s The Monkey and the Turtle in Trubner’s Oriental Record in London.
Rizal’s The Monkey and the Turtle is said to be the first illustrated story for children. A draft of the story is scribbled on an album belonging to Juan Luna’s wife Paz Pardo de Tavera. The story is based on a Filipino fable about the silly monkey and a clever turtle and is an elementary school staple in the Philippines. In fact, one of my fondest memories of grade school is connected to this story. In second grade, this was our class’s piece for Sabayang Pagbigkas (class oratorical contest) on Linggo ng Wika, with half the class playing “Pagong” (turtle) and the other half playing “Matsing” (monkey). Hahaha, I was in the monkey group and I still remember the very emphatic “Tatadtarin kita nang pinong-pino!” (I will chop you into tiny pieces!).
Here are some of Rizal’s original illustrations for The Monkey and the Turtle:
In honor of NCBD, I’ve reread two of my favorites from the PBBY Grand Prize Winners of the Salanga Prize (writing) and Alcala Prize (illustration): the 2005 winner The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots by Nikki Dy-Liacco, illustrated by May Ann Licudine (whom I met at last year’s Book Fair); and 2007 winner Tight Times by Jeanette C. Patindol, illustrated by Serj Bumatay (who is an INKie friend). Both books are published by Adarna House.
The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots chronicles the journey of a paperclip on a teacher’s desk. The timeline moves backwards, tracing the paperclip’s history and its travels around the world, and then forward again from the teacher’s desk again for a new adventure. It’s an imaginative story that showcases an interesting point of view from an inanimate object, and May Ann Licudine’s cheery illustrations are the perfect complement.
Meanwhile, Tight Times is a story in verse that talks about a family dealing with financial difficulty, the economical measures they take to survive, and how they are still thankful for the things they have. It’s a grim topic that is relevant to the times but still manages to send a positive message. The illustrations are just awesome — Serj manages to create a whole new dimension to the story, depicting the family as mice (bringing to mind the expression mahirap pa sa daga/ poor as mice) in black and white drawings touched up with a few spot colors. I’ve had this book for three years now, and I’m still blown away.
I actually got these books out from my shelves after reading the list of suggested NCBD activities posted by current PBBY chair Ms. Zarah Gagatiga on her blog. I hope the readers of this blog join in the celebration as well — pick up a Filipino children’s book or YA novel today!
The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots, and Tight Times, both paperback, both 5/5 stars
Books 86-87 for 2010