Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Best Children's Books of 2013

Time to wrap-up this awesome and productive year in Filipino children's literature.

I came up with my personal list of top children's books in terms of smashing illustrations and pioneering contribution to local kidlit illustration. Of course, these are subjective picks but I'll try my best to be objective in pointing out their hits.

It's difficult trimming down my list because there's so many quality books produced this year! I based my list from this year's "harvest of children's books" presented at the 30th National Children's Book Day.

Some of my personal criteria for cut-off are: insightful illustration; creative use of technique, style, and media; intriguing cover; effective design and layout; memorable characters.

In random order, these are my...

13 Best Illustrated Filipino Children's Picture Storybooks of 2013:

Pilandokomiks Issue no. 2: Mga Pagsubok ng Karagatan
Illustrations and story by Borg Sinaban
Based on the original Pilandok character by Kora Dandan Albano
Published by Adarna House

I once attempted to create one and making comics is no joke! And to sustain that with a sequel is phenomenal. Pilandok in a comic format is refreshing to have in a sea of picture storybooks. This full color comics is hip and young, like a deer prancing on every page. Perhaps more boys will read books now.

Illustrations by Jason Sto. Domingo
Story by Augie Rivera
Published by Adarna House and Plan

Mantsa is directly translated as stain, or figuratively, a scar or stigma. First glance of the cover, you already know what the book's about. The "clownish" figures of the illustrations strongly connote the overall theme, like hiding a deeper issue with exaggerated makeup.

Ang Tatlong Bubwit at Ang Bangkang Marikit
Illustrations by Ghani Madueño
Story by Will P. Ortiz
Published by Lampara Books

All I know is that I want to squirm with glee whenever I see the illustrations from the book! The vibrant color scheme, clean style, warm and fuzzy characters simply spell h-a-p-p-i-n-e-s-s. 

Muling Magbabalik ang Perya
Illustrations by Jonathan Rañola
Story by Eugene Y. Evasco
Published by Lampara Books

You can almost feel the painstaking process of the illustrator's pointillist technique in this book. The illustration is passion and craftsmanship made visible. Traditional techniques really embody the artist's energy and this book exemplifies that transmission.

Ang Pamana ni Andres Bonifacio
Research by Emmanuel Encarnacion
Photography by Jinggo Montenejo
Design by Eli Camacho
Published by Adarna House

I just love ephemera, that's all. But seriously, this book contains lots of objects, images, and articles related to the Filipino hero and the Katipunan I have never seen before! These things tell stories themselves, evoking inspiring messages. 

My Daddy! My One and Only!
Illustrations by Jomike Tejido
Story by Zarah Gagatiga
Published by Lampara Books

This is a delightful, well-designed book from cover to cover. The anthropomorphism used in the illustration is very relevant in establishing the essential theme of the book which is about appreciating individuality among diversity.

God of Fire, God of Rain
Illustrations by Jason Moss
Retold by Yna Reyes
Published by Hiyas, OMF Literature

The toy-like figures in the illustration make you wondering as you flip the pages. Why was the story illustrated that way? You might even think this is too avant-garde for a biblical passage! Until, the last page makes sense of it all. What a surprise! The illustrator presented a unique way of visual storytelling of an age-old story.

Ma, Me, Mi, Mumu!
Illustrations and story by Jomike Tejido
Published by Tahanan Books

Another beautiful book with design taken into consideration. The cover is so elegant and enhanced with printing effects: matte finish with spot gloss varnish. The characters are also charming. But what's special about this book is how balanced the illustrations are. It's about dark and scary mythical creatures and yet somehow it still looks enchanting. 

Sandwich to the Moon
Illustrations and story by Jamie Bauza
Published by LG&M

The universal appeal of the illustrations is the charm of this book. The illustrations are as crazy and tasty as the premise of the book, extraordinary work comes from silly ideas. This is one of the few books that incorporates text seamlessly in the illustration itself. 

The Girl Who Always Looked at People's Shoes
Illustrations by Beth Parrocha Doctolero
Story by Liwliwa Malabed
Published by Lampara Books

The beauty of the illustrations in this book lies in its prominent characterization. The expressions, costume, and styling of the characters are striking. The whimsical illustrations rendered harmoniously in a range of media indicates that the illustrator is a master of color. 

But That Won't Make Me Sleep
Illustrations by Liza Flores
Story by Annie Pacaña-Lumbao
Published by Adarna House

A sequel from But That Won't Wake Me Up, this book is charming the second time around. Since the illustrations are three-dimensional, they seem to jump off the page as if enticing kids to play with them. Also, the illustrations in this book are more action-oriented, thus giving a sense of animation.  

The Little Girl in a Box
Illustrations by Aldy Aguirre
Story by Felinda Bagas
Published by Adarna House

At last, design is seriously considered in the overall impact of a children's book. This is the first book ever, afaik, that played so much on its physical format. This long overdue is simply because of economic factors. But risking production cost over a brilliant visual design certainly pushed the envelope in local traditional children's book publishing. It doesn't stop there, the minimal and clean illustrations worked well together with the story and the design itself. Outstanding!

Hating Kapatid
Illustrations by Frances Alvarez
Story by Raissa Rivera Falgui
Published by Adarna House

The clever personification, delectable visual treatment, great use of space and layout blended well in the composition of the illustrations, what more can I say but sweetness!

Have a blessed 2014!


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Monday, December 23, 2013

Hat yourself a modest little christmas...

"Low-key" pen and digital coloring

Cheers to the Boy with invisible crown! 

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


A page from Arketype, a 12-page graphic essay of me trying hard to be an hipster five years ago

Sometimes, whenever I talk to someone, I find myself amused without them knowing. Although the mere presence of people I care about makes me feel alive, it's not just because of what they are talking about nor their way of delivery that's worth noting. I know that habit may seem a bit judgmental, but it's because I'm trying to understand their entire message within a gestalt frame: processing them as a whole package. 

I just feel happy whenever I successfully connect through somebody's eyes. Platonically.

It's like diving against gravity or accessing free wifi through generous neighbors. We give and open ourselves while receiving acceptance. The person I talk to might not even aware but as we move along with the conversation, I discreetly observe their eyes: the color of iris, frequency of blinks, the shape of the eyelids, lushness of lashes, and most importantly-movement. 

The language of eye gestures speak so much than what the mouth says. Words can always be made up when it doesn't mean well, but they do come out easily for the sake of spontaneity. 

But the eyes never lie.

The people I meet don't have a clue that I have mastered the art of reading the eye's language, lol. One unforgettable character I remember is about this guy's furiously moving eyes while talking to me. Of course, I felt my brain was all over the place, quite insulted, and couldn't connect to him, less pay attention to what he is really talking about. So distracting and frustrating. My eyes kept calm trying to connect and telling, "It's fine, I'm just here, listening. And I do care to what you have to say."

And then there are those whom you have lost connection with, for reasons you know nothing about. They have burned the bridges of connection or they're simply not interested greeting your soul anymore, even if you're very excited to teleport with them. 

To connect with someone through their eyes is one of the beautiful gifts of being human.


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I'll appreciate it very much, thank you.

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