Rumor Has It

YA Fiction

Calie has survived her high school life by staying at the sidelines and choosing to become a wallflower. But all that will change when a dirty little rumor about her spreads like wildfire. Calie may still be a wallflower, but now, everybody is staring at her wall.

Everything feels like its falling apart until Landon (a.k.a the school heartthrob) comes in and proposes a brilliant plan. Will Calie survive high school now?

 

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Kilig Moments

Farrah Polestico’s Rumor Has It (2015) is straight out of any teenage girl’s daydreams. I found myself giggling and smiling every time something ‘kilig’ happens in the story. What I like about this story is that it’s an easy read. Anyone can read it anytime they want. Even if you’re a teen or you feel like you’re a teen, this story is a fun and bubbly cluster of pages. It’s also very accessible since it’s available as an ebook so you could just whip out your phone and read away.

The storyline might be light and easy but it is also a bit shallow and predictable. After reading some of the chapters of the book, I had to tell myself, “I’ve read this somewhere.”

Some of the events in the story, though, just made me cringe instead of making me feel butterflies and fireworks and all that. The story is also too fast paced. It isn’t confusing to read but it all just felt rushed. I just hope it was written with more, well, more everything. More events, more words that would help readers to visualize the story, more anything that would help the story to not sound like it is only done halfway.

But even with these flaws, Rumor Has It has gotten rid of my critiquing eyes and just made me enjoy the book while it lasted. I was in a different place while reading and I fell in love every time Landon would do something “blush worthily” cute to Calie. I felt the feelings everyone in the story was feeling. I really really wished it didn’t end so soon because I (honestly) wanted more of Landon and more of Calie’s winning and losing moments.

 

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Released Feels

Overall, I (who secretly really love heart racing love stories but is just hiding it) thank Farrah Polestico. For they were released into their natural state of tears freely slipping on my cheeks, Cheshire cat smiles and laughs I would usually be ashamed of.

Just a personal note, if you want more emotions released then you should listen to STARK’s Ambon while reading this. The lyrics and tone of the song sounds like it’s been made to really accompany this book. Trust me, reading the books while listening to this song made me an emotional wreck.

There is one thing I would always say to myself while reading this book, “Wow, how come there are no Landons in our lives?”

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Raya is a fourteen-year-old kitty lover who dreams to fulfill her bucket list which includes travelling around Europe by train and one day publish her own book. She was part of the PDI’s Junior Inquirer and has since been writing stories online.

Sina Jamin at Kiara

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Binasa ni John Toledo ang Jamin, Ang Batang Manggagawa at ‘Nay, ‘Tay, Itim na po ang Dagat, dalawa sa aklat pambatang nailathala sa bansa na malinaw na tumatalakay sa kinakaharap nating mga isyung panlipunan.

Kasalukuyang nagtuturo ng wika at panitikan sa Ingles si John Toledo sa isang progresibong paaralan sa Lungsod Quezon. Gradwadong mag-aaral din siya ng panitikan sa Kolehiyo ng Arte at Literatura sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, Diliman.

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Ilang taon na rin ang nakalilipas nang sabihin ng isang kritiko na “wholesome” daw ang panitikang pambata sa bansa. Hindi ako sumasang-ayon dito. Tulad ng ibang anyong pampanitikan, patuloy na umaangkop ang panitikang pambata at nakikiagapay sa mga isyung nararanasan ng mga bata.

Patunay dito ang dalawang kuwentong pambata na inilathala ng Southern Voices Printing Press – Jamin, ang Batang Manggagawa (2011) na nilikha ng SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns at ‘Nay ‘Tay, Itim na po ang Dagat (2013) na isinulat at iginuhit ni John Paul Clemente. Tunguhin ng mga kuwentong ito na pukawin ang politikal na paninindigan ng mga mambabasa upang kumilos para baguhin ang lipunan.

 

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Si Jamin

Tagasalin ng abono at tagatahi ng sako si Jamin ng Mindanao sa aklat na Jamin, ang Batang Manggagawa. Tuwing gabi, kayod-kabayo si Jamin at ang kaklaseng si Oliver, na tagabuhat naman. Nararanasan pa nilang maltratuhin ng kanilang malupit na bantay. Hindi rin maayos ang kondisyon sa kanilang pagawaan, kaya natahi ang isang daliri ni Jamin.

Tulad nina Jamin at Oliver ang napakaraming batang maralita na napipilitang magtrabaho sa murang edad. Pansinin, halimbawa, ang mga namamalimos na mga bata sa highway ng EDSA, ang mga batang Sama (na mas kilala natin bilang Badjao) na araw-araw na nagtatambol sa loob ng dyip, at ang mga mangangalakal ng basura sa dumpsite ng Tondo.

Pinatutunayan ng akdang ito na hindi hiwalay ang karanasan ng bata sa karanasan ng matatanda. Ipinapakita rito na may mga bata sa ating bayan ang kasama sa mga kontraktuwal na manggagawang nagtitiis sa kakarampot na sahod upang makaraos sa buhay. Nangahas harapin ng kuwento ang katotohanan na hindi lahat ng bata sa ating bayan ay natutugunan ang mga pangangailangan at karapatan, at na nararanasan din nila ang tunggalian ng mga uri.

 

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Si Kiara

Tungkol naman sa pananamantala ng isang mining company sa Rapu-Rapu, Albay, ang isyung isinisiwalat ng ‘Nay ‘Tay, Itim Na Po Ang Dagat. Sa aklat, nanaginip ang batang si Kiara na naglakbay siya sa karagatan at kagubatan kasama ang mga kaibigang nilalang. Naantala ito nang ibinalitang may darating na halimaw, at nagising si Kiara na winawasak ng halimaw ang gubat. Pagkapunta niya sa tabing-dagat, nagkukumpulan ang mga tao sa mga patay na hayop. Nakita rin niya ang kinalbong gubat. Dahil sa mga ito, nagpasiyang magsagawa ng rally ang komunidad upang labanan ang “dambuhalang halimaw.”

Hayag na ipinapakita si Kiara bilang modelo ng mga batang may malasakit sa kalikasan. Nakapanlulumong isipin na sa panaginip lamang niya nakikitang buhay ang iba pang nilalang sa kalikasan dahil na rin sa pagsira ng mga mining company sa kanilang kapaligiran. Matapang na ipinapakita ng kuwento ang pagtuligsa sa operasyon ng mga kompanya sa pamamagitan ng sama-samang pagkilos ng komunidad.

 

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Kay rami pa ng mga ganitong kuwento na hindi pa naitatampok sa mga akdang pambata. Ipinahahayag ng mga ito na pag-asa para sa mga bata na baguhin ang mundo. Dahil hitik sa isyung panlipunan, maaaring pagsimulan ng mga guro at bata ang mga kuwentong ito ng talakayan tungkol sa sitwasyon ng kahirapan, pang-aalipin, at pananamantala sa lipunang Filipino.

Namumunga rin ng maraming tanong ang pagbabasa ng mga ito. Paano kaya halimbawa kung nabasa ito ng mga bata sa lungsod at nayon? Pupunta kaya sila sa mga pagawaan na may batang manggagawa tulad ni Jamin? Makikipamuhay rin kaya sila sa mga pamayanan sa tabi ng dagat tulad ni Kiara? Tanging karanasan at paggabay ng guro’t pamilya ang magtuturo nito. Mula doon, saka lamang natin masasabi tulad ni Jamin na “kay sarap umuwi…” pagkatapos ng mahabang pakikibaka.

Shine

RayaAlso joining our review team is Raya Carrillo! Raya is a fourteen-year-old kitty lover who dreams to fulfil her bucket list which includes travelling around Europe by train and one day publish her own book. She was part of the PDI’s Junior Inquirer and has since been writing stories online.

For her first post, she lays out what she thinks of Candy Gourlay’s young adult novel, Shine (David Fickling Books, 2013). She read the Philippine edition published by Anvil Publishing House (2014).

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Who wouldn’t want the cool weather, the smell of wet plants, and the sound of the rain pouring? Those moments you allow yourself to put on some sentimental music and look out the window pretending you’re in a music video. This is rain for some of us.

But for Rosa, the rain is an everlasting shower that clouds her strange island called Mirasol into darkness. The sun almost never shines in her town. To make things worse, Rosa has a rare condition called “The Calm.” She has never uttered a word in her life, an effect of an ugly scar on her throat.

Things begin to brighten up when she starts chatting with Ansel95, a marvellous photographer who might just become her first ever real life friend, and when her dead mother suddenly appears on their front door.

This is Shine, written by the award-winning author, Candy Gourlay.

 

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Unputdownable

Shine is one of the few books I just could not put down. Every moment after I started reading it, my mind was lingering with thoughts about the story. My fingers were itching to start turning pages and find out what was going on that I finished the book in less than a day. Well, eight hours to be exact.

Every time I would turn a page, the story just gets better and better. Maybe it was the mysteries the story has yet to unfold, like who is the person behind Ansel95.  Maybe it was the horror stories so well told by Rosas’ yaya that I had to check my back at night. Or maybe it was the excitement of finding out more about the characters and how it would all end up.

This book is definitely going on my shelf of all-time-favourites.

 

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Unusual

Though the writing style is unusual, it actually makes Shine interesting. There are a few chapters that are written in a different font, which signals the shift in point-of-view. Every page I turn makes me understand the unknown point-of-view even more. This style adds to the already compelling mystery of the book.

If there is one thing I loathed about the book is that 217 pages of it was not enough. I found myself hoping a bonus page was hidden behind the dedications but sadly there was none. I now find myself regretting my decision of letting my curiosity take over and finish the book quickly. But I still am happy that every word seeped through me beautifully and that the story didn’t disappoint one inch of my mind.

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Pictures of the UK and Philippine editions of Shine are from Candy Gourlay’s site.

Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults

IzziXi Zuq’s Nook welcomes thirteen-year-old Isabel de la Cruz as one of our regular reviewers. A student at the Raya School, she likes to read, write, and draw. For her first assignment, she chose to review a horror fiction anthology.

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Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults (University of the Philippines Press, 2013) is a collection of short fiction from new and veteran Filipino authors as curated by award-winning editors Dean Francis Alfar and Kenneth Yu.  It’s the first in a series of anthologies for young adult readers; this one on horror, to be followed by other instalments for science fiction, fantasy, and other genres.

 

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Depictive of Young Adult Life

The collection contains stories about things that young adults experience and like, such as car rides, imaginary friends, the way we see ourselves, how we strive for perfection, and, of course, food. My picks for the stories that depict young adult life best, even and maybe because of the horror twist, are Honesty Hour and Dan’s Dreams.

A story about four students obliviously heading home, together one last time, Honesty Hour speaks to college kids who either dream of or actually drive their own cars. From the start, there’s this sense of foreboding with each word hinting at some mystery. Although there are no characters from Filipino mythology (i.e. kapre, mananangal, and the white lady), the story draws on Western legends that are familiar enough to engage me.

As for Dan’s Dreams, I think every student can relate to Dan, the top student at school trying to keep his grades right up there.  He lives in a dorm, so the story will look familiar to those who do the same, but that just underscores Dan’s isolation in the midst of his fellow students.  End of it all, everything feels familiar, certainly the stress of school, and maybe, also, the horror story that comes along with it.

 

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Hair-Raiser sans the Scary Music

Although the theme of the book is horror, there are still some stories that are less haunting and more mysterious (or downright monsters and ghosts). One of these stories is Education by Ate Flora. Personally, it was a bit more like a childish horror story – the type of story that they tell you as a little child to annoy you; the nostalgic equivalent of monsters under your bed and in your closet. But, again, it is still a well written story.

Besides Honesty Hour (Gabriela Lee), Dan’s Dreams (Eliza Victoria), and Education by Ate Flora (Renelaine Bontol-Pfister), the other stories have ominously opaque titles. Reading these is like watching the start of a real hair-raiser without the scary music. There’s Eat Me (Kally Hiromi R. Arsua), Mommy Agnes (Vince Torres), The Running Girl (Elyss G. Punsalan), The New Teacher (Alexander Osias), Gago’s Got Your Back (Andrew Drilon), Itching to Get Home (Joseph Anthony Montecillo), Lola’s House (Fidelis Tan), A Yellow Brick Road Valentine (Charles Tan), Lucia, the Nightmare Hunter (Kate Osias), Frozen Delight (EK Gonzales), and Misty (Isabel Yap).

Good that the book is an anthology.  While reading all the stories in the collection I often had to pause, even stop, because of how powerful the words were. It was like I could actually feel each crunch and bite from the book; each chill that ran through my spine was as startling as the one before. It’s like reading your favourite romance novel where you fall in love with literally everything because of how touching and cheesy the story is.  But, instead of feeling those caressing lips on your neck, you feel the excruciating bite of each word. Terrible, that’s what it is – a good kind of terrible that every horror story should be.

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Front and back cover images from Philippine Genre Stories.

12:01

XZN Sting ProfileWe let Filipino kids and teens review books written for them. First up is Sting Asistores, a student from the Philippine High School for the Arts.

Writing his first comic book review, Sting is an incoming Grade 10 student who has been reading comics since he was five. His favourite superhero has always been Batman and his favourite comic book is Knightfall by Doug Moench.

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Published by Anino (2016), an imprint of Adarna House Inc. for comics and graphic novels, written by Russell Molina, and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo, 12:01 features the story of the teen band Edji-Voice. The action starts when the authorities found them on the streets beyond the midnight curfew imposed during the Martial Law era.

 

Oppression and Resistance

Some information crucial to the story was presented to the reader using deep imagery – forcing the readers to think. This method is likely to elicit varying interpretations from readers. While there are advantages to a story with no definite plot, this might be problematic for a book which aims to illustrate a critical period in Philippine history.

The transitions to sub-narratives were admirable as well. The author slowly gives out hints before introducing the sub-narrative itself. These sub-narratives also lead readers to a critical understanding of Martial Law by weaving together narratives of the oppressed and tortured.

The author also composed verses presented as songs written by the band. The verses are rich in metaphors and symbolisms about the Marcos regime. This allows readers to get a sense of what it was like to constantly fear abuse from the government.

 

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A Lesson of the Past

Writing the dialogues using the particular slang of the time period helps readers picture what life was like in the Philippines during the Martial Law era. Curfew, for instance, held a lot of meaning. This particular use of language also helps character development. Through particular quirks in speech, characters gain their own personalities.

Though set in the past, the characters are depicted in ways that prompts modern readers to resonate with them. The deliberate portrayal of the characters as band members is an example. This raises the comic’s appeal to younger readers. At the same time, it could also pique their interest in the past.

 

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Realistic Illustration

The illustrator’s clear, unique, and detailed style captures the realism that the story wants to portray, save for some cartoonish details used to emphasise expressions. The gloomy background drawings are also very rich and interesting.

The illustration and the text also really work together to deliver the story. The flow of the panels in some parts though was confusing. For instance, there is a continuous left to right movement, then a left to down and back to right movements. Other readers might see this as a way of reflecting the characters’ movement, especially in the section where the band is escaping from the police. It just doesn’t work for me, though.

 

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Martial Law for Millennials

The book really gives readers, especially Filipino teenagers who didn’t get to experience Martial Law, a glimpse of what may have happened during that time. It exposes the brutality of the regime and what it used to do to people through the band members’ individual narratives in the story.

The book enlightened me on what happened during the Marcos Regime. It is informational enough to get me curious about whatever happened during Martial Law and what drove millions of people to revolt in the streets of EDSA. It showed me how it was like when Filipinos cared so much about each other and how much they wanted the same thing. It reveals Filipino nature and could lead readers to discernment on one of the many meanings of being a “true Filipino”.

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Images are from Kajo Baldisimo’s Facebook account.

Dinosaur Pop-up Activity Book

Isa marahil sa mga di-gaanong inilalathalang uri ng aklat pambata sa ating bansa ang mga interactive book. Ito ang mga aklat na nangangailangan ng pakikilahok ng mga mambabasa, bukod sa pagbabasa ng teksto at ilustrasyon. Ilan sa mga halimbawa nito ang flap books, pop-ups, at touch-and-feel books.

Ang Dinosaur Pop-up Activity Book (Adarna House, 2006) na isinulat at iginuhit ni Jomike Tejido ang isa sa mga hindi malilimutang interactive book na inilathala para sa mga batang Filipino. Kilala si Jomike Tejido sa paglikha ng seryeng Foldabots Toy Books at mga aklat pambata na hindi lamang nagsasalaysay, kundi naghihikayat din sa mga mambabasa na makilahok sa ibang paraan.

 

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Nabubuhay na mga Dinosaur

Itinatampok ng aklat ang limang dinosaur, at mayroong maiikling pangungusap at talatang sinasabi ang batayang impormasyon tungkol sa bawat isa. Madaling maunawaan ang mga ito dahil sa simpleng paraan ng pagkakasulat.

At kapag nagupit at naidikit na ang mga bahagi ng bawat dinosaur, nabubuhay ang mga ito! Makatotohanan pa ang ilustrasyon ng mga dinosaur, na ang isang bahagi ay nagpapakita ng panlabas na hitsura habang ang kabila ay ang kalansay. Mayroon ding mga nakatutuwang pagpapatawa sa ilang paglalarawan sa mga katangian ng mga dinosaur.

Ngunit ang mas nakamamangha ay  kung paano pinag-isipan ang pagiging pop-up ng aklat mula sa kung ano lamang sa panahong iyon (at marahil, sa ngayon) ang kayang paraan ng paglilimbag ng mga aklat dito sa bansa.

Sa kasamaang palad, ilang taon na ring ‘patay’ ang Dinosaur Pop-up Activity Book!

 

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Buhayin ang Dinosaur

Kaya sana ay magkaroon ng bagong edisyon ng Dinosaur Pop-up Activity Book. Bukod sa marahil pag-update ng mga impormasyon (kung mayroon mang kailangan), mainam din na ibahin ang tigas at uri ng papel at pag-isipan pa ang pagkakaayos ng mga pahina (dahil mayroong lamang kaunting kalituhan kapag hindi pa nagugupit at naididikit ang mga dinosaur).

Ang mas kailangang baguhin siguro ay ang pagkakasulat dahil mayroong mga paggamit ng pandiwa na hindi ganoon madulas pakinggan. Tingnan, halimbawa, ang deskripsiyon sa brachiosaurus.

 

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Sana ay muli ngang buhayin ang Dinosaur Pop-up Activity Book. At mas dumami pa sana ang mga interactive book na likha ng mga Filipino para sa mga batang Filipino. Hindi ba’t nakatutuwang makakita rin ng pop-up ng mga katutubong hayop natin o touch-and-feel ng iba’t ibang habi o lala natin?