First of all, I'm thanking Paolo Chikiamco for giving me two free copies of Kwentillon (my kids were delighted to have each a copy since the one I bought was donated to the library) and for bravely thinking of publishing a literary magazine that targets young adults as its intended readers. We need more brave people in the industry. Now for my review.
The line up of stories is impressive. How can you go wrong with Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo as an opening salvo for readers? The Last Datu is fashioned after the Trese tradition. Folkloric but with a storytelling style that is kinetic, the old is presented as the new. There is always something happening on the page with illustrations that seem to jump out at the reader. It is like motion on printed page. The pace of telling is gradual but exciting, Tan reveals the past in bits of narration and deftly connects it with the present as Baldisimo provides the visuals that fill the mind with context. It is this combination of slow but measured unfolding of text and story, accompanied by moving illustrations (how black and white can be powerful colors!) that make The Last Datu, and the Trese series engaging reads.
Robert Magnuson's Poso Maximo is a delightful story of a simple life made meaningful by beautifully cooking a sunny side up. I like it that Magnuson did not put in words. The pictures were enough to tell the story. Poso Maximo is my kids' favorite in the line up of stories. For one, they have an experience of Magnuson's works as younger readers. They read his early works from Adarna House and Lampara Publishing. So, when they met his work again in Kwentillon, they were like reading a story from an old friend. That is reading magic! See how the reader, author-creator and story connected? For my kids, Nico and Zoe, the experience of reading Poso Maximo was a personal one.
The Secret Origin of Spin-Man by Andrew Drilon brought me back to Greenhills, San Juan and the fruitful years I spent at Xavier School as librarian. Boys read but the people who care for them need to provide the reading material and space to nurture the habit. Drilon's narrative speak of this space and habit. To many boys, the comic store is their reading space and comic books afforded them that space in their mind to imagine and create their own worlds. I still think about the imaginary brother in the story. Was he ever real?
High Society and Sky Gypsies are intense stories. Both appear to send the agenda of developing more historical fiction or graphic novels on that genre. To its creators, carry on and lead the way! The article on YA Lit by Tarie Sabido strengthens the argument for more YA literature in the country. The YA book reviews, the fan fiction article and the write ups about Manix Abrera and Chester Ocampo made me want to know more about the books and these two young creators of wonderment.
What did not work
I found the illustrations of Hannah Buena overwhelming. It's just me, I know, since my kids love the fullness of the images and how every bit of visual fills up the page. I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief in Sky Gypsie's Badjao characters and their ability to breathe in space with out a suit. I think the "genetic sturdiness" which the Badjao developed over time needed explanation in scientific and cultural perspectives.
Over all, Kwentillon is indeed a fantastic first issue. It is fun and engaging to read, but serious and intense in its agenda to provide young people with the literature they can call their own. Looking forward to the second more fantastic issue!
Bibliographic data: Kwentillion: A Million Stories to be Told. Budjette Tan and Paolo Chikimaco, editors. Mandaluyong City: Summit Media, 1st Issue 2012.