Friday, April 4, 2014

In Search of Children's Books Featuring Filipino Characters

The title pretty much speaks for itself. Do you know of any?

As a Filipino-American child who was an avid reader, I never saw a book with a Filipino characters in it. This was in the 1970's. Keep in mind, I never specifically looked for books with Filipino characters. But as much as I read, I do think it's telling that I never encountered one. And yes, I would have remembered it if I did. We are very excited when one of our own is featured or mentioned in any type of media. Back then, there were so few that we were excited when we heard that a celebrity was even just part Filipino.

Having begun my teaching career in Oakland, CA, multiculturalism and ethnic diversity were hot topics among the teachers I met, as well as my classmates while I was in grad school. We were asked to make a list of children's books featuring ethnically diverse characters. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were more books with Asian characters than I remembered seeing as a child. Among them were:

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina Friedman
Jackie Robinson and the Year of the Boar by Bette Lord
Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland

And this list goes on.

Yet, children's books with Filipino characters where not readily found. 

I do not consider myself to be well-versed in multicultural children's literature, nor am I someone who would get on a soapbox and push my ethnic diversity opinions on others. But I am an American-born Filipino, who happens to speak better Spanish than Tagalog. And when I became a mother, I knew I wanted them to love reading as much as I did. I also knew that I wanted them to be proud that they were part Filipino and part Okinawan-Japanese.

Thus began my search for books featuring Filipinos began. And it's still going.

So far, I've found the following:

Willie Wins by Almira Astudillo Gilles 
Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore 
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
My First Book of Tagalog Words by Liana Romulo
This was my favorite book to share with my kids!

Finally, I don't necessarily think that multicultural children's books need to explain cultural differences -- though I think that would be cool. I do love the idea that a children's book tells a story that all children can enjoy, and have characters with whom all children can identify -- but they also just happen to be Filipino.

Do you guys have any books I can add to my list? Let me know!

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