It being July with National Children’s Book Day just around the corner, and it also being our 35th year, we have invited a children’s book specialist to help us take a look at our history as a company and producer of children’s literature. We are happy to have with us on this blog, for a three-part series, Katrina Gutierrez, who, following a PhD in Children’s Literature at Macquarie University in Sydney, has been granted fellowships at the Hans Christian Andersen Centre in Odense, the International Youth Library in Munich, and the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books in Stockholm. She is currently writing a book based on her doctoral thesis and is a cultural adviser and consultant for Lantana Publishing, a London-based publisher committed to addressing the lack of cultural diversity in children’s books in the UK. She also recently worked as project editor for Mga Kuwentong Adarna, a treasury of 35 classic and out-of-print Adarna titles, to be released later this year in limited print.
Our 35th birthday wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to the dedicated and creative staff of Adarna House. Because it is also Children’s Book Month, I thought it would be fun to ask some of the staff to tell us about their most favorite Adarna books. These are the books that make their hearts and minds grow bigger and better. These are the stories that continue to give them joy, hope, courage, and delight. These are the favorites that they will remember in their old age, when their grandkids sit at their feet and beg for a story. It sounds more fun in Filipino: Alin ang inyong mga piling-piling paborito?
Happily, Xavier, Ergoe, and Alai played along. Xavier Gapaz, who is with Business Development, has enjoyed making books with Adarna House for 15 years now. As Senior Marketing Associate, Ergoe Tinio keeps us abreast of Adarna’s many projects. Alai Agadulin is writer, researcher, and the keeper of Adarna’s library and archive. Here is what they have to say about their top picks:
Xavier: “Si Daginding (1980) – ito ang gusto ko noong bata pa ako. Una ko narinig at nakita ang kuwentong ito sa Batibot. Mula bata ako hanggang tumanda ako, alam ko ang kuwentong Si Daginding. It fascinated me because it has all the elements of an interesting story for an 80s kid: a mouse for a hero, a spaceship, and the wacky idea that the moon is a big ball of cheese. The hopeful hilarity of it has stayed with me, and that’s why I think it is a good book.
Ang Mayroon Akong Alagang Puno (1998)* naman ang nagustuhan ko noong nagsimula na akong magtrabaho sa Adarna. Higit na maganda ang mga ilustrasyon, kahit bata o matanda ang titingin. Malalim ang kuwento at maraming pakahulugan. Para sa akin, puwede itong kuwento ng pagtanda ng isang bata at kuwento rin kung papaanong yung imahinasyon ng isang tao ay nagsisimula sa wala, yumayabong, at muling nawawala. Maaaring mayroon pang ibang interpretasyon ayon sa nagbabasa.”
Ergoe: “Mahilig ako magsulat at mahilig ako tumula. I realized that children’s literature is very important because those who read from childhood are better able to bridge the gap between ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ literature. They learn skillful reading and interpretation of poetry in particular. I chose my favorites with this in mind.
I think of Sundalong Patpat (Thin Soldier, 1997)* as a narrative poem. Virgilio Almario’s text and Ferdinand Doctolero’s illustrations are very beautiful when read separately and together. The illustrations were carved on wood! Sadly, it did not do well on the market—the layout was not ideal and parents were worried that the story might be too violent [the Sundalo fights his archenemy, an Octopus]. But it is not about violence. It is a wonderful adventure story—one that is very encouraging about pursuing your dreams in the service of others.”
Xavier: “Maybe the market was not yet ready for this kind of literature. But this is why Adarna exists—to introduce books like these. The introduction of new ideas is part of our advocacy.”
Ergoe: “Nemo, Ang Batang Papel (Nemo, The Boy Made of Paper, 1994)* is another favorite of mine—and it is also out of print! It has a sad ending, but when I read this book, my mind was blown! Rene Villanueva, who has a deep sense of story and social consciousness, wrote it. Good teachers can encourage readers to tease out the deeper meanings of the text—and there are many. My favorite interpretation—made by a teacher—is that the ‘batang papel’ speaks of our ability to escape into the lives of book characters. I love this book because every reading gives me something new, and each interpretation renews me.”
Alai: “Naunahan ako ni Ms. Ergs! Lumaki akong nagbabasa ng Nemo at para sa akin ang saya-saya ng librong ito kasi naging malaya [sa lungkot at hirap] silang mga batang mahihirap, at sumama din ako sa pagiging malaya nila. Sobrang gandang-ganda ako sa mga larawan nito, sinubukan ko pang gayahin noon (pero, fail!).
I seem to be attracted to stories that focus on ordinary lives but have unexpected endings and have adventurous elements. Sandosenang Kuya (A Dozen Brothers, 2003)* also ends with a special twist. It is a very lively yet very moving story about an unconventional family. I cried when I read it. I love that about Adarna’s children’s books—that they easily surprise and move me, and make me feel happy.
Isa pang nagustuhan ko na kinalakhan ko ang Madyik Banig (Magic Mat, 1994). Tungkol ito sa isang batang nilipad ng madyik banig, at nangyari ito sa kaniyang panaginip. Ang dami niyang narating na mga lugar—ang ilalim ng dagat, ang iba’t ibang bansa. Sobrang simple lang, pero ang dami kong natutuhan dito tungkol sa iba’t ibang kultura. I easily identified with the illustrations, which are also very cute. I really enjoyed reading a book about a child’s secret adventure. What child wouldn’t want to fly away and see amazing places, and then be safe and sound at home before morning?”
You can find out more about Xavier, Ergoe, and Alai’s favorites from our online bookshop. Just click on the titles, and our web elves will do the rest. Some of their top picks might even find a special place in your heart and become your new favorite.
* Mayroon Akong Alagang Puno, Sundalong Patpat, Sandosenang Kuya, and Nemo, Ang Batang Papel are included in the upcoming Mga Kuwentong Adarna, a treasury of Adarna House classics!
Reminding everyone: If you have any Adarna book from the 80s or earlier, you might have a chance to win PHP5,000 and 100 storybooks from our #AklatPamana contest. See guidelines here.