Kids Read #9 (Halloween edition!): Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! 🎃

It was always such a treat to be allowed to stay up late to watch Magandang Gabi, Bayan‘s Halloween specials, with its cheesy floating “white ladies” and powdered cemetery ghosts. To a ’90s kid like me they were the SCARIEST THING EVER (followed closely by the early Shake Rattle & Roll franchise).

Jomike Tejido’s Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a wholesome take on the Philippine supernatural, through the eyes of little Sophia and her Lolo Nanding (Grandpa Nanding).

We begin with a neighborhood boy taunting Sophia, saying, “May mumu sa bahay n’yo!” (“There’s a mumu in your house!”) Sophia is afraid of encountering a mumu (monster) in her house — and imagines one in the kitchen, in the bathroom, or wherever she goes.

Lolo Nanding helps her overcome her fear of monsters by presenting them in a friendlier light. Tejido makes clever use of these creatures’ “real” traits as a way for Sophia to bond with them.

For example, Lolo Nanding encourages her to challenge any manananggal she meets to a sewing contest. In local folklore, manananggals are vampire-like creatures that can separate the upper and lower half of its body to be able to fly at night and prey on pregnant women. (!) But Tejido’s version is cute as a button!

Similarly, Lolo Nanding suggests that Sophia use the tiktik’s long, snaking tongue to paraglide…

… that she teach the tiyanak, a monster baby, his ABCs…

… and give the kapre, a cigar-smoking giant thought to reside in big trees, some pakwan (watermelon) candy so he’d dump his cigar.

For other monsters Tejido doesn’t stray far from folklore. If you pass an unexplained mound on the ground in the province it’s supposedly good practice to say “Tabi tabi po” (“Excuse me”) just in case you disturb these nuno sa punso, or Philippine dwarves.

Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! is a fun introduction for children to a distinct part of Philippine culture. I personally love that Sophia is introduced to these creatures by her lolo, to whom she gives his favorite tea and fruit at the end, as thanks for rhyming so long.

There’s a gallery at the back of all the monsters in the book…

… and the book is bilingual in English and Filipino, so you can help your little one learn the language too.

A highly recommended, scary-not-so-scary book to read the kids this Halloween!

 

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Ma-Me-Mi-MUMU! (Tahanan Books)
Written and illustrated by Jomike Tejido

Php 195 at National Bookstore

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Kids Read #8: There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

I try to help BB embrace the vibrant culture here in his present home, Singapore, mainly through the books we read to him and by taking him around this small island-city. To BB, the best way to get from point A to B is via the local SBS or SMRT buses — he loves looking out the large windows and pointing at the things he sees (“Biddings! Tees! Canes!” [Buildings! Trees! Cranes!]).

As for books, Epigram Books has a lot of good selections for kids and adults alike. An excellent find of ours is There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by Gwen Lee, a book BB has been asking us to read more of lately.

BB is now old enough to remember his favorite nursery rhymes. He even replaces the words sometimes, in an attempt to make us laugh (“Baa, baa black…BUS!”).

BB’s perfect for Ms. Lee’s book, which rewrites traditional English nursery rhymes in a Singaporean context, using local food, places and festivals.

For instance in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Lights” (a recreation of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”), the focus is on the local Deepavali festival or ‘The Festival of Lights.’ Meant to symbolize light conquering the darkness, the Deepavali (or Diwali) festival has Hindus “waking up at dawn to bath in oil, dressing up in colorful clothing, and going to a local temple for prayers. At home, clay oil lamps are lit, doors are decked out with green mango leaves, and colorful designs called ‘rangoli,’ which are made of dyed rice or flours, are drawn on the floor. Homes are also thoroughly cleaned and adorned with flowers and other colorful decorations.” (1)

Other rhymes include ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ (about the common house gecko instead of a mouse!), ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ (about moon…cakes), and the titular poem, which instead of an old woman in a shoe with too many kids, is about a Peranakan woman in a shoe with too many nonya kueh (sweet or savory bite-sized snacks). Peranakan refers to Straits-born Chinese or Baba-Nyonya. They’re the masters of Singaporean staples like laksa, which “blend Chinese ingredients with cooking techniques and spices used by the Malay/Indonesian community.” Yum!

Beautifully illustrated by Cheryl Kook, the book is a lovely re-imagining of beloved traditional rhymes and humorous enough to merit repeat “Read, Mama!” requests from BB.

That’s good enough for me!

 

(1) Source: https://publicholidays.sg/deepavali/

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There Was a Peranakan Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (Epigram Books)
By Gwen Lee, Illustrations by Cheryl Kook

S$14.90 + GST

Kids Read #7: Dr. Seuss’s ABC

Some books are classics for a reason. I think Dr. Seuss books fall firmly within the classic camp.

Of the ones we’re fortunate to have, Squishy’s current favorites are ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ (“Sam-ay-am!” by his request) and this one, Dr. Seuss’s ABC.

I love reading Dr. Seuss out loud because it just sounds so musical. (“Big B, little B, what begins with B? Barber baby bubbles and a bumblebee!”) I discovered that “Seussian verse” is meant to sound better out loud — so it’s perfect for little kids who’re just starting to read.

Again in typical Seuss fashion we’re introduced to zany characters like the Fiffer-feffer-feff (see below) and Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz…

… and humorous activities like painting pink pajamas, oiling orange owls, dreaming of a dozen doughnuts and a duck-dog, and walking a quacking quacker-oo.

Squishy loves sounding out the letters with me (“Jee-jee-jee!” for G), which I take as a sign that he’s enjoying the book too.

I think Dr. Seuss’s ABC has a soft spot in my heart because we had a CD-rom (!) of the book back in the ’90s. Both the print edition and the CD have the same words, but the CD has some clickable content and sounds accompanying each page too (for example, you could hear the mice humming their midnight music on “M”).

Can’t go wrong with a classic!

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Dr. Seuss’s ABC (Random House)
By Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

Bought secondhand for around S$3 at the atrium in Lucky Plaza
🙂

Kids Read #6: Bee Safe by Joyce Piap-Go

I knew Squishy had absorbed at least one key lesson from this book when he pointed at one of our electric sockets, looked at me and said, “Basap” (“Be safe”).

We started reading ‘Bee Safe’ to Squishy when he developed a keen interest in poking around stuff he wasn’t supposed to be poking in the first place.

Source: Lunar Baboon

The book follows Dee the Bee as he encounters everyday situations at home, in school, or out and about, with a glimpse of the unpleasant consequences that may follow if Dee isn’t doing the “safe” thing. The book is illustrated by Maria Cristina Sison, a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan.

It was tiring (and pointless) to keep saying “No!” every time Squishy reached for a socket or stepped into the kitchen when the oven was switched on. Because he’s too young, he won’t understand long-winded explanations either.

So, on top of baby-proofing where we can, we’ve taken to reading him this book and pointing out to him the spots in the house where he was most likely to encounter such situations.

We realized Squishy was remembering some of it when he suddenly started making a “boo-hoo” face whenever we tried to read ‘Bee Safe’ to him. We eventually concluded that he was associating the book with all the bad stuff that could potentially happen if he wasn’t careful … so maybe in this case the lesson was actually too effective, haha.

On a positive note, that means ‘Bee Safe’ is an easy-to-follow read even for toddlers as young as 1½ years old. Our point here was not to scare our little one, but rather introduce him to basic safety precautions in a loving and protected environment, with adults he knows and trusts.

Recently Squishy’s more relaxed about us reading the book to him again. “Dontdodat” (“Don’t do that”), he’d say, whenever he remembered parts of it (it’s really just the bits on the electric socket and washing hands that he remembers for now — which is just fine!).

It’s good that he’s friends with Dee the Bee again, because I just found out my mom bought the rest of the books in the series (Bee Polite, Bee Green, Bee Active, Bee Happy). Bring it on, Dee!

 

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Bee Safe (Hiyas Press)
By Joyce Piap-Go

Php 80 at National Bookstore

Kids Read #5: A for Adobo by Nelson Agustin

Squishy was reading ‘A for Adobo’ to his lolo on one of our regular FB Messenger calls and it went something like this:

Me: “A is for…?” Squishy: “Dobo!”

M: “B is for…?” S: “Babangka!”

“Nakakagutom naman yung binabasa mo!” (“Your book is making me hungry!”), my dad laughed.

‘A for Adobo’ is exactly as described — an alphabet book for the Filipino family who loves to eat (that’s us, ehem).

Each letter of the Filipino alphabet, i.e. A to Z plus Ñ (Piña) and Ng (Daing na Bangus), is accompanied with a beautifully-shot, high-resolution photo of each Pinoy dish.

I see what you did there with the “J”!

It’s a board book so it’s perfect for toddlers like Squishy. The bright colors and clean setting also make it a joy to read for the parent (that’s me — or Hubby!). I suppose the only drawback is that it tends to bring on unusual cravings for okoy (which Squishy pronounces with an exaggerated pursed-lip “oh”) and paella valenciana.

I see what you did there with the “X” and “Z” too 🙂

I think it’s an excellent find and a good way to introduce Pinoy food to Squishy. He likes saying some of the words so much that they sometimes sneak their way in to other alphabet book readings. The other day we were reading one in English to him and, on asking him for a word starting with E (and expecting “elephant” etc.) he suddenly says “Mada!” (for Ensaymada). Oh well, bilingual households ftw. 🙂

(Ignore the Movavi watermark in the video please! Am too cheap to spring for the registered version, haha.)

I picked up this book on one of my usual National Bookstore runs. I try to drop by whenever we make a trip back home. ‘A for Adobo’ can be found in National’s kids’ books section. I noticed there were both board book and softcover editions.

A highly-recommended read — except on an empty stomach.

 

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A for Adobo – Board Book (Tahanan Books for Young Readers) 
By Nelson Agustin

Php 275 at National Bookstore

Kids Read #4: Good Night Philippines, Good Night World by Mila Bongco-Philipzig

“I’m sleepy now. Good night. I love you.”

The message repeats, page after page, but in eleven different languages – from Ilonggo to Italian, Kapampangan to Cree, Cebuano to Swedish.

good night phils 2

These are children, siblings, parents all wishing their loved ones in various corners of the world a good night.

The Filipinos abroad are mostly OFWs: engineers, nannies, cooks, nurses, musicians.

These “good night” conversations are held over Skype, Facetime chat, old-fashioned phone calls.

The aim of “Good Night Philippines, Good Night World” is to

“celebrate the diversity of places and languages in the Philippines, as well as the courage and versatility of Filipinos who have had to embrace other cultures and languages as they travel to study, work, or immigrate abroad.”

The book has a simple premise and it was fun to have a go saying good night in all those languages (there’s a pronunciation guide at the back).

good night phils 1

But I found my thoughts drifting.

It’s not that hard to imagine such a “good night” conversation taking place in real life.

As of 2015 there were 2.4 million OFWs working abroad, mostly women (51.1%). As of August 2016 OFW cash remittances totalled $17.6 billion – 10% of the country’s GDP. By ratio to population, the Philippines ranks 1st in the world when it comes to dependency on remittances.

In short, a lot of Filipino families – not just the ones who have OFWs in the family – have OFWs to thank for the Philippine economy’s resilience.

What the statistics don’t show, however, is the day-to-day sacrifices they make. The hotel worker waking up alone the next day, after hearing her daughter’s voice in a call the night before.

It can be very lonely, especially this Christmas season.

Hubby and I are OFWs ourselves. We’re very lucky indeed to have Squishy with us here.

Not everyone is as fortunate.

When Squishy’s old enough maybe we’ll talk about books like these. How he thinks the kids in the book feel with their parents working so far away.

We’ll talk about all the languages the people spoke – how different they sound yet how in the end, they all mean exactly the same thing.

Good night. I love you.

good night phils 3

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Good Night Philippines, Good Night World (Anvil Publishing)
By Mila Bongco-Philipzig

Php 150 at National Bookstore

Kids Read #3: Mmmmm…Sarap! by Ana de Borja Araneta & Krie Reyes Lopez

 

Whenever we visit the Philippines I try and drop by National Bookstore. I love bringing back Tagalog kids’ books for Squishy.

One of our favorite finds this year is Mmmmm…Sarap! (Mmmmm…Delicious!) from Anvil Publishing.

I was drawn to the titular character, a round, hungry bangaw (blowfly) who encounters yummy Filipino dishes. Is he (or she) brave enough to try new tastes?

mmm sarap 1

The bangaw is eager to try classics such as tinola (chicken soup in ginger broth) and ginataan (the illustration shows the sweet dessert with glutinous rice balls, pearls, and sago — though ginataan can refer to a lot of dishes cooked in coconut milk).

However he balks at sinigang (a sour, tamarind soup usually cooked with pork or shrimp) and dinuguan (a savory stew made from pork offal, pork blood, and vinegar — trust me, it tastes better than it sounds!).

Sinigang? Ang asim yata niyan?” (Sinigang? Isn’t that sour?”) he wonders.

The narrator encourages him to overcome his fears and questions: “Huwag matakot tikman!” (Don’t be afraid to taste it!)

It’s a gentle, consistent message throughout the book — give it a try, don’t be afraid.

mmm sarap 2

In the end, the bangaw succeeds in overcoming his fears and ends up full, healthy — and sleepy (of course!).

The illustrations throughout the book are unique in that these are fabric pictures. The blowfly’s wings, the palayok (clay pot), all use fabric from ANTHILL, which stands for Alternative Nest and Trading/Training Hub for Indigenous/Ingenious Little Livelihood Seekers. ANTHILL showcases Filipino hand-loomed fabrics and uses them to make stylish, contemporary stuff.

mmm sarap 3

Mmmmm…Sarap! is a light book to enjoy with your kids. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun for the parents who read along too.

mmm sarap 5

The authors, Ana de Borja Araneta and Krie Reyes Lopez, intend it to be:

…Ibig namin sanang gumawa ng mga aklat na nakatutuwa. Kumuha rin kami sa mga karanasan sa tunay na buhay.

Mula sa lambingan ng magulang at anak, ito ang mga paksa sa aming mga aklat:

  1. Ang pagtuklas sa sariling katawan sa kiliti, pagtikim at pang-amoy. (Mas madali kasi isulong ang kalusugan kapag komportable sa katawan ang bata.)
  2. Ang kalikasan, sa pagtanghal ng mga kulisap at hayop mula sa ating pang-araw-araw na buhay.
  3. Ang ating kultura, sa paggamit ng mga katutubong disenyo mula sa mga tela at habi ng katutubong kababayan.

Maybe that’s why Squishy loves the pair’s other works, books with “distinguished” titles like Kokak! Kokak! (the Filipino version of the sound a frog makes, a.k.a. Ribbit! Ribbit!) and Prrrrrt…Utot! (the Filipino word for fart — haha). 😀

 

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Mmmmm…Sarap! (Anvil Publishing)
By Ana de Borja Araneta & Krie Reyes Lopez

Php 175 at National Bookstore