[Monday Reading] Award-Winning Picture Books from the Philippines: Tight Times and Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu!

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

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[Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Story] T is for Trees

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Meet the Storyteller: Shaun Tan

Melbourne artist Shaun Tan won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film award for The Lost Thing. Pic: AP Photo/Matt Sayles Source: AP.

Melbourne artist Shaun Tan won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film award for The Lost Thing. Pic: AP Photo/Matt Sayles Source: AP.

Pre-AFCC Glitter: Meet Naomi Kojima

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Singapore Book Exchange 2013

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Photo Journal: 안녕하세요, 한국! (Hello, Korea!)

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Poetry Friday: Janet Wong Double Feature

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Pre-AFCC Glitter: Meet Corinne Robson, PaperTigers Lady

Taken in Singapore, May 2011.

Taken in Singapore, May 2011.

Pre-AFCC Glitter: Meet Stephanie Wong

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Book Hunting Expedition (53): Book Finds in the Philippines

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Pre-AFCC Glitter: Meet Festival Director Kenneth Quek

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This week, I am very excited to share award-winning picture books from the Philippines. I have a fascination with books that are deemed to be exceptional by the gatekeepers of a particular domain/field. It demonstrates the pulse of society and what it values. While my research focused on award-winning stories from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for the past 30 years (our  research findings published in the book that we have edited and will be launched during the AFCC – see below):

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It is also good to take note of other picture books from the Philippines as awarded by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY-Alcala Prize). It also shows how dynamic and vibrant Filipino literature has been over the years.

IMG_6995Tight Times

Story by: Jeanette C. Patindol
Illustrations by: Sergio T. Bumatay III Published by: Adarna House, 2007.
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

While I do not normally go for books with a strongly-deliberate message content, this one manages to provide its lesson in a whimsical, almost fable-like manner, albeit with a neatly-tied resolution in the end.

As the title indicates, this family of mice is going through difficult times – something which a lot of people from anywhere in the world could resonate with. I find this picture book to be a good illustration of the intertextuality of visual images as the latter added significantly and provided a greater dimension to an all-too-familiar narrative. If the drawings showed an ordinary human family struggling to make ends meet, the texture of the story would have been way different.

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I used to have two eggs for breakfast. Now, I can have only one, and not everyday at that. But I’m glad I still have eggs to eat.

The story is written in two languages. Hence, there is a tendency for the text to overly-crowd the page. Yet, I find that the empty white spaces, as well as the full page spreads (English in one page, Tagalog in the other page) worked quite well for this narrative – giving space for the eye to breathe.

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More than anything, this is a story about hope, optimism, transformation, and the resilience of one’s spirit to triumph against life’s vicissitudes. While yes, times are tough, it is edged with tiny joys and glories:

I eat my eggs slowly now, and drink my chocolate even more slowly. It is strange how my chocolate and eggs taste yummier these days!

I was also deeply amazed by Sergio Bumatay’s artwork. This is what sealed the deal for me in this particular book more than the storyline. The largely monochrome illustrations punctuated by a few well-considered pastel colors here and there was just brilliant. Here are a few of my favorites from the book:

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The pictures also tell their own layered story that provide another dimension to the narrative altogether.

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I could not help but gasp as I flipped through the artwork found in each page. The craftsmanship and keen eye for detail are evident. I always use this title as part of the collection of books I share with my teacher-students in my institution when we discuss how picture books can be used to address social and emotional concerns of high ability learners as it speaks about fortitude and resilience and finding one’s inner strength and courage to face adversity.

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Story By: Nanoy Rafael Illustrator: Sergio Bumatay III
Published by: Adarna House, 2008.
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I love everything about this book: from the stunning graphics, layout, design, storyline, its larger-than-usual size, slightly glossy pages. I especially liked anxious, young Isko, with the strange little mask on his face, rushing off from one place to the next. While it is pretty evident that he was worried about something when he left his home, it was not clear to the reader what got him so antsy and distressed.

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Isko seems to take on an allegorical journey as he moves with a frantic pace through his neighborhood, stopping at one point to talk to a shabby-looking cousin here, a neighbor there, all the while muttering “naku, nakuu, nakuuu!’ (my my, oh my). He even heads off to the kind and patient medical doctor in the town’s clinic, and sees his classmate playing basketball with his older brother (Kuya) at a corner of the street.

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As he moves quickly from one place to the next, Isko wonders and asks about the little big questions in life: how spiders came to be (little eggs), where new frisky furry puppies come from (and what the owner does to the litter if there are too many of them), and more importantly how a new baby is formed.

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While Isko’s concerns are pragmatic and clearly grounded from this world (and quite universal too, in fact), the illustrations have a whimsy, surreal, fantastical quality to it that make the story even more interesting and visually arresting. The illustrations breathe pure artistry and creative brilliance yet remain securely anchored in visual elements tied to cultural and societal truths and realities.

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It comes as no surprise to me that this book won the Peter Pan Prize Award given by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Sweden. You may also want to click on the Adarna House website to know more. As seen on the IBBY website:

The Peter Pan Prize was established in 2000 by IBBY Sweden and the Göteborg Book Fair. The prize is awarded annually to a book for children or young adults of high quality in both literary and subject terms, satisfying one or more of the following criteria:

  1. by an author previously unpublished or little known in Sweden, 

  2. from a country, language group or culture with limited representation in Sweden, 

  3. with content concerning children or young adults in less familiar countries and cultures less familiar to Swedish readers

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What Isko is anxious about and how he came full circle in the end, I shall leave for you to discover. This book you definitely must find and add to your collection. Absolutely beautiful.

Currently Reading…

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I haven’t done much reading this week. I had to prepare for quite a number of conference presentations while at the same time attending to upcoming June inter-semester courses in the university that I am both teaching and coordinating. Ah. C’est la vie. We do what we could. I will be paying overdue fines now for The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books, not as riveting as the other Moers books I’ve read. But that could also be because there are huge gaps in between my reading, which makes me lose my momentum and stride in getting into the narrative. It’s easier to steal time to read one Bradbury story per day or while waiting in the queue or at a coffee shop somewhere.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

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Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! is the 2013 Winner of the Peter Pan Prize from the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) and the 2008 PBBY-Salanga Prize

Tight Times is the PBBY Salanga Prize 2007 Grand Winner, Finalist National Book Awards

AWB Reading Challenge: 32, 33 of 35

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102, 103 of 150

11 Comments on [Monday Reading] Award-Winning Picture Books from the Philippines: Tight Times and Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu!

  1. Night Times looks amazing. I love the illustrations! Picture book illustrations are always so cute. 🙂 The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books sounds like an intriguing read.

    Take a look at what I’m reading this week.

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  2. When my kids were little they had the Anno book you pictured at the top. Great illustrator.

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  3. I love the illustrations in Tight Times! I linked to the May Award Winning Boooks Challenge! 🙂 Thanks for the meme!

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  4. The illustrations in these two books are amazing, Myra, just as you discussed. I do love the idea of that Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu & now wonder about the ending. Thanks for highlighting these books!

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  5. You find the most interesting books, Myra – both in terms of themes as well as the illustrations. There is a whole market of books in your part of the world that are entirely unfamiliar and totally fascinating, which I discover reading your Monday posts. Thank you!!

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  6. Rose Milligan // May 21, 2013 at 3:00 am // Reply

    I wasn’t familiar with the Peter Pan award. I guess you learn something new everyday. I’m reading The Host by Stephenie Meyer.

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  7. I’m not familiar with any of the children’s books from the Philippines, but maybe I should be because my 3 year old half brother lives there with his mother. Perhaps I should look through these and send him one 😉

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  8. I love coming to your posts every week and discovering such treasures! Thank you Myra! Such fun!

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  9. I can’t wait to track down, Naku! Sounds so fun! Thanks for sharing and good luck with all of your presentations and projects!

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  10. Tight Times appeals to me. I love the little mice and think mice are always the perfect little rodent to appear in a story. Nice illustrations too. That’s what grabbed my attention quickly.

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  11. The illustrations look quite fascinating. Tight Times sounds interesting- if not particularly story-wise then subject-wise.

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2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Its Monday what are you reading? | Book Shelves & Window Seats
  2. Fantastical Elements Philippine Children’s Literature: Selected Stories from “Ang Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” Retold by Christine S. Bellen |

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