Not just for kids: 'Simply Jesse' and 'EDSA'
MANILA, Philippines - In a time when there are so few good men and women in our leadership, when it seems as if the entire Senate and Congress will be investigated for corruption, it is easy for our children to echo our snark and cynicism, and grow up not really believing in our country.
I wonder, sometimes, if kids today will grow up believing in superheroes, fairy tales, monsters in closets or under the bed, but not in the Filipino and what we can do.
Fortunately, two recently released children's books — "Simply Jesse" by Yvette Fernandez and illustrated by Nicole Lim, and "EDSA" by Russell Molina and illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III — hope to foster optimism and fascination with our nation's history in young readers.
"Simply Jesse" is the 4th title in Summit Books' Dream Big Books series, which aims to encourage children by telling the life stories of inspiring figures such as John Gokongwei Jr, Socorro Ramos, Ninoy and Cory Aquino and, now, with its latest publication, Jesse Robredo.
The story is told in the voice of 13-year-old Jillian Robredo, the youngest daughter of Leni Robredo and the late Sec Jesse Robredo. The book is a simplified retelling of Robredo's public service career, from his beginnings in local government in Naga, to his post in the DILG, to his untimely death in a plane crash in 2012.
The narrative focuses on Robredo's model of leadership by example. Robredo's unglamorous yet important actions, such as sweeping the streets of Naga in shorts and slippers, and his eschewing of vehicle escorts and bodyguards are emphasized in the book, perhaps to demonstrate his devotion to hard work and simple living.
The art by Nicole Lim is gorgeous — the rounded characters and pastel colors just verge on Sanrio-level cuteness, but is fortunately hemmed in by Fernandez' cheery yet articulate tone and the weighty subject matter of the book.
According to Heidi Abad, professor of children’s literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines Diliman, the book would be ideal for readers aged 7 to 10 who can read on their own, as the narrative voice doesn’t lend itself well to being read out loud by an adult.
A book like "EDSA" is particularly important in this era of apologists and revisionists, for our children may begin to forget that EDSA is not just a traffic-choked street, but an important historical moment in our national consciousness.
I imagine that reading this book with a young child would be a great way to start a conversation with a child about the events of 1986 — what led to it, who were there and why we must never forget. The book is a counting book based on images and objects which were seen — or, at least, should be remembered — from the EDSA Revolution.
Bumatay’s gorgeous illustrations are key to this book, as they depict the icons and symbols that made EDSA what it was. His illustrations are whimsical and visually engaging, but also faithful to the spirit of EDSA as a game-changing historical event.
I can imagine a child asking her parents or grandparents about the images in this book, especially those related to political events. For example, Tatlong dilaw na lasong nakayakap sa puno is easily decipherable to adults, but to children, the significance of the yellow ribbons will have to be explained.
I admire a book like "EDSA" for not excluding the darker elements of the EDSA Revolution. One such page is, “Limang sundalong mabilis na sumusulong.” It was an event that could have turned violent, could have been a repeat of Tiananmen Square, but wasn't — if not for the military's quick change of heart and some behind-the-scenes political maneuvering.
Thus, Molina includes images of war, such as soldiers and tanks, in the images he counts.
However, the dominant message of the book isn’t the potential violence of the EDSA Revolution. It’s the fact that we all came together to say enough is enough; that through collective action, we got out freedom.
Molina expresses this through a clever metaphor of a bird once caged and then free, which ties the book's narrative together.
On informational books for children
While these books are wonderful additions to a child’s bookshelf, reading them is also an enriching experience for adults.
"Simply Jesse" and "EDSA" can remind adult readers that literature is about inspiration through the lives of others, real or imagined, and that we are never too young to experience that magic.
Pick up these two books and learn that no matter how dismal our present looks, we have had great moments in the past, and perhaps we can have them again. - Rappler.com