Mother Tongues: Celebrating children’s books in different Philippine languages

‘Kalipay and the Tiniest Tiktik’ is a picture book in Cebuano-English.

‘Kalipay and the Tiniest Tiktik’ is a picture book in Cebuano-English.

Can children’s books spark language renewal? Can they strengthen a child’s Filipino-American identity and self-esteem?

These are questions that Sari-Sari Storybooks hopes to affirm with the release of three Philippine picture books this Fall. Together with The Filipino School of New York-New Jersey, Sari-Sari Storybooks will kick off a U.S. book tour of these three books at the Bergenfield Public Library, on Sunday, September10th, from 1-2:30 p.m. at 50 West Clinton Street, Bergenfield, N.J. The book will also launch in New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago this September to November.

Sari-Sari Storybooks, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, shares the quirky magic of Filipino storytelling with beautiful, bilingual picture books for ages 5 to 8. The books launching this Fall are “Kalipay and the Tiniest Tiktik” (Cebuano-English), “Amina and the City of Flowers” (Chavacano-English), and “Melo the Umang-Boy” (Ivatan-English). The stories teach core Filipino values such as bayanihan (community), kapwa (self-in-the-other), humor, resilience, and respect for elders. They are based on Philippine themes such as weaving, migration, and the supernatural. The books are designed as teaching tools, with a bilingual glossary and discussion/activity questions in each book.

At the launch, families can also learn about a new Filipino Children’s Storytime program that will start in October. The Filipino School of New York-New Jersey and the Bergenfield Public Library are partnering to read the library’s collection of Filipino picture books to families at twice-monthly storytime and craft events. Venessa Manzano, founder of The Filipino School, will be present on Sept. 10 to answer questions about the program, which will be the first of its kind in the state.

Sari-Sari Storybooks was created in 2012 by Christina Newhard, as a way to leverage her graphic design career in support of her culture. Christina was born and lived in Manila until age 10, when her family moved to the United States, but she has always been pulled back to the Philippines. Christina developed stories with the support of friends (such as creative consultant and co-author of the Ivatan story, Alyssa Sarmiento-Co), and by working with talented illustrators, translators, and authors. In October 2016, she raised $18,634 for printing the books via Kickstarter, with over 300 backers pledging support. Kickstarter staff also chose “Modern Filipino Children’s Stories: Sari-Sari Storybooks” as “A Project We Love.” Waray, Meranaw, and Ayta stories are also in production, and will release over the next two years.

 A page from ‘Melo the Umang-Boy’ written in Ivatan-English.

A page from ‘Melo the Umang-Boy’ written in Ivatan-English.

At the end of every Sari-Sari Storybook is a question: “If you were the author, would you change any part of the story?” Christina’s hopes this encourages children to imagine themselves as authors of their own culturally-specific stories. A new generation of diverse creators would ensure that Philippine stories truly survive and thrive.

To RSVP for the Bergenfield event, or pre-order a book for pickup on Sept 10, please contact Christina Newhard: christina@sarisaristorybooks.com. (Please note: books can’t be purchased at the library, only preordered for pickup). Otherwise, to buy Sari-Sari Storybooks in the U.S., contact our San Francisco-based distributor, Arkipelago Books (arkipelagobooks@gmail. com). In the Philippines, you can buy Sari-Sari Storybooks books at Fully Booked and National Bookstore, or place an order online with our Philippine distributor, Chamber Shell Publishing (jamiebautista@gmail.com).

The New York City Sari-Sari Storybook launches will be at Bluestockings Bookstore in the Lower East Side on Sept. 12, 7-9:30 p.m., and at Word Up Bookstore in Harlem on Sept. 17, 3-5 p.m.

© 2017 The FilAm

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3 Comments

  1. Mighty wrote:

    This is awesome! I am an Ilokano residing in Nashville, TN. My wife is a Tagalog from Bulacan. We have a pre-K son who speaks mainly in English. but we’ve been teaching him Tagalog. We’ll definitely look for these titles.

    Are there any Ilokano-English books in production?

    • JUN ANTOLIN wrote:

      I HAVE A SMALL COMPANY SELLING FILIPINO PRODUCTS ON AMAZON.COM. WE CURRENTLY HAVE SOME ILOKANO/TAGALOG CHILDREN’S BOOKS SELLING ON AMAZON.COM. WE HAVE APPROXIMATELY 5,000 PHILIPPINE BOOKS / CDS/ DVDS ON AMAZON. INCLUDED IN THOSE LISTINGS ARE ILOCANO/ENGLISH DICTIONARIES, ILOCANO MUSIC CDS, ILOCANO NOVELS, ILOCANO HISTORY
      BOOKS.

    • Christina wrote:

      Hi Mighty! This is Christina. I’m not currently working on an Ilokano book, but in the future, who knows? You can follow Sari-Sari on Facebook or Twitter, for updates: facebook.com/sarisari.storybooks and @sarisaristories

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