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Children’s books in various PH languages honor mother tongues

/ 09:56 PM September 05, 2017

Filipino children’s books in Filipino languages and English from Sari-Sari Storybooks in Brooklyn, New York.

NEW YORK — 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 (Sunday, September 10, from 1-2:30 p.m. at 50 West Clinton Street, Bergenfield, New Jersey.)

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

The book will also launch in New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago this September to November. (The New York City Sari-Sari Storybook launches will be at Bluestockings Bookstore in the Lower East Side on September 12, 7-9:30 p.m., and at Word Up Bookstore in Harlem on September 17, 3-5 p.m.)


Quirky magic

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 (compassion), 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 story times and craft events.

First of its kind

Venessa Manzano, founder of The Filipino School, will be present on September 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.


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

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.

Kickstarter support

In October 2016, she raised $18,634 via Kickstarter to print the books, 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 be released over the next two years.

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 September 10, contact Christina Newhard: (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 San Francisco-based distributor, Arkipelago Books (arkipelagobooks@gmail. com). In the Philippines, Sari-Sari Storybooks books are at Fully Booked and National Bookstore, or order online from Philippine distributor, Chamber Shell Publishing (

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TAGS: “A Project We Love” choice, “Modern Filipino Children’s Stories: Sari-Sari Storybooks”, Bergenfield Public Library, Filipino children’s books, Filipino children’s books in Cebuano-English, Filipino children’s books in Chavacano-English, Filipino children’s books in Ivatan-English, Filipino Children’s Storytime, Kickstarter, Sari-Sari Storybooks, The Filipino School of New York-New Jersey
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