Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: The Morning Gift

SPOLIERS! Don't say I did not warn you.

Eva Ibbotson's novels were known to me as works of the fantastic. That is why, I was pretty surprised when I discovered, in all places -- at Powerbooks, Cebu, her romance novels. All three of them were displayed alongside chiclit and YA books in the Juvenile section of the bookstore. It was The Morning Gift that intrigued me most.

Ruth, a Catholic young lady of Jewish decent had to marry thirty year old Quinton Somerville, a British professor and paleontologist, out of convenience and survival. The year was 1938. The place was Vienna, Austria. Hitler's sphere of influence and reign of terror has begun. Ruth's parents fled Vienna and as planned, she was to follow them. But something went awry so she was left behind. Here comes Quinton to rescue the plucky damsel in distress. What followed was a series of funny, heartfelt and subtle romantic escapades in London and Northernumberland.

What worked
Ibbotson stayed true to the Austen tradition. For this, I give her props!

The wistful looks and lingering stares evoke the yearning of love unrequited. The unspoken tension described and told in the setting of a place, the intimacy of a moment, the conversations and dialogues between characters were all done with restraint and subtlety. The romance is sweet and tempered, yet intense. Writing in the third person point of view, Ibbotson is able to allow her readers to understand the mind scape and emotional bearings of her characters.

For instance, I could tell early on that Ruth and her childhood sweetheart, Heini, will never end up together because, Heini's intentions and longing for Ruth were shown as a matter of functional need. Lovers in romance novels ideally should complement each other no matter how different their personalities are. There is no spark between Heini and Ruth, so to speak. On the one hand, Quinton's motivation to save Ruth from the holocaust was a clear sign of his compassionate nature, but it is his restlessness upon discovering Ruth's presence in his class and the warmth he feels when he discovered her waiting by the shore one fine morning confirmed the possibility of love growing between them.

There is enough external conflict to spice up Ruth and Quinton's love story. There's the backdrop of war, their family's culture and its differences, and the third party on Quin's side of the love angle. What makes this romance story relevant though is its explorations of human relationships beyond the lead characters. Ruth's parents were given solid ground as people who truly matter in her life as she keep her marriage to Quinton a secret. Qunton's aunt and family friends were effectively used as contrast to his indefatigable and winsome qualities.

What did not work
Ruth although endearing is the typical ingenue. She has a host of friends and followers who stood up for her during difficult times. She has a temper and if not for her friends and family, she would have been in trouble from the start. This romance novel turns out to be a fantasy after all.

It's a small thing really, but I was hoping to see more of Ruth's inner conflicts. She does not have a major flaw. If she ever make a mistake, someone is bound to save her or something will happen that will fleet her away from danger.

The ending is rushed and cropped. I am not sure if this is deliberately done to indicate the passing of the years or to build up tension on the reader. By this time, Ruth and Quinton has affirmed their love and consummated their marriage that being severed from each other is just too impossible to happen. It would have been better if Ruth's suffering and her choice of leaving Heini and her parents were given at least a single chapter. This would have given Ruth and the reader to grow and mature together in the novel.

Nevertheless, everyone is happy in the end. The whole thing worked somehow since I'm pinning to read the other two from Ibbotson's romance novels.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Araw ng Pagbasa (Reading Day) 2009

The Quezon City Public Library (QCPL) system kicked off the celebration of National Book Week with a Reading Day - Araw ng Pagbasa in its selected branches last November 23, 2009. The event was a week long celebration of books, reading, children and senior citizens regaling the young listeners with stories read aloud.

Having conducted a storytelling workshop for the QCPL and the Federation of Senior Citizens Quezon City Chapter on November 20, 2009, lolos and lolas (grandfathers and grandmothers) volunteered to share their time and talent in storytelling in selected QCPL branches the weekend after. Photos of lolos and lolas who voluntered can be viewed here.

I am pleased to see how they took storytelling like fish to water. During the workshop, the lolos and lolas were avid listeners. They enjoyed participating in the workshop activities as well. As far as library services go, this initiative by the QCPL is a stone that hit not one, nor two or three birds - but four!

One, storytelling, especially the read aloud technique, is highlighted as an effective vehicle to motivate children to read. Two, storytelling in the library promotes the books and services it offers to children. Three, the activity was a library service geared towards senior citizens of the community too. And lastly, the whole event emphasized the important role that librarians play in community building. The QCPL librarians have the funding and the support of their local government units. By organizing events and library services such as this, they have shown leadership and dynamism necessary to accomplish roles and responsibilities of the public library to its patrons.

Congratulations to the QCPL librarians and more power!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Completing Life Cycles

During the con-current session of the Petron Gurong Kaakbay Conference at the Ateneo de Manila, I was introduced by a former student, Arnold Lau. In my session on Creating Classroom Libraries with the public school teachers of the conference, Arnold was there as my room monitor-assistant. Turned out that Arnold volunteered for the task. A freshman at the Ateneo, he looked just the same as I saw him last in Xavier School.

I remember Arnold as an upfront and straightforward boy, audacious at expressing himself and confident with his actions. He is one of Xavier School's Math Wizards. I was surprised though that he is taking a course that leans toward the humanities. Nonetheless, I felt I have completed a life cycle when he introduced me as his former teacher-librarian in Xavier School.

Just recently, I was once again given the opportunity to come full circle.

Last Wednesday, November 25, 2009, I had the honor and the pleasure of meeting my former teachers at the Pateros Catholic School, Grade School Department. I gave a four-hour workshop on storytelling for the grade school's teaching staff. My grade six Math teacher, Mrs. Figuron, my grade four Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Padama and my grade five Science teacher, Ms. Hipolito were present. It had to be the my most unforgettable storytelling workshop yet.

For this, I have to thank my former Filipino teacher in grade six, Mrs. Flery Natividad-Guevara, who is now the school's librarian for the invitation to do what I love doing. My gratitude goes out to my former grade three Reading teacher, Ms. Lolit Evangelista, currently the principal of the Grade School for welcoming me back to PCS, my alma mater. It is my hope to go back and give back in as much as I am capable of doing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Lola Basyang Tradition Lives On

In the Philippines, Lola Basyang is already a metaphor for storytelling. Popularized by Severino Reyes in the 50's as a syndicated radio program and a series of story books that carry a variety of stories from local tales and borrowed lore, it lives on in modern retellings and TV shows.

The Quezon City Public Library (QCPL) joins in the bandwagon as it pushes the campaign for library use through storytelling via the help of its senior citizens. Coordinating with the Federation of Senior Citizen Association of the Philippines QC chapter, QCPL, will be running storytelling sessions by resident lolos and lolas (grandparents) in all its branches.

On November 20, 2009, I will be joining them, sixty volunteers all for a whole day workshop on the art and therapeutic claims of storytelling. I've trained children, college students, parents, teachers and librarians on storytelling but facilitating a workshop for senior citizens as storytellers is a first.

I will definitely post a follow up entry!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Filipino Librarian: Lilian Liberty Elenzano-Ventura

Most of the library science books I used back in college were written by librarians. These were textbooks I read and worked on from one LIS subject to the next. It makes sense, isn't it? Librarians write about the subject they specialize on or the courses they teach in the academe.

Just recently, I chanced upon a book written by a librarian. Lilian Liberty Elenzano-Ventura authored the book, Mga Filipinong Siyentipiko at Imbentor (Filipino Scientists and Inventors) a directory of Filipino scientist and inventors.

I remember Ms. Ventura from the Information Literacy (IL) project that Dir. Lou David spearheaded way back in 2004. She was then, a school librarian in the Quezon City public school system. If my memory serves me right, Ms. Ventura was one of the participants in the IL project that ran modules for its implementation in the school and its library. At that time, she has shown great promise in leading the project to reality.

I sometimes wonder what has happened to her and how she has been. Her stories about the programs she conduct in the school library piqued my interest since such activities were unheard of in the public school library system at that time. The library promotions and library periods could only have happened because, as the librarian, Ms. Ventura knows her library science and possesses the leadership qualities necessary to the do the job.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: The Legend of the Wandering King

Laura Gallego-Garcia’s The Legend of the Wandering King was standing among the newly processed books in the technical room of the library when it called for me, asking to be read. I did not heed the call until two weeks later when it was officially out for circulation.

The book blew me away. I felt the need to share it with the grade seven Reading teachers in school who perennially search for interesting titles of books. They were drawn to the book too that they included it in the list of book reports for grade seven. It turned out that the students and their parents enjoyed the book as well.

This is one of the perks of the job – to discover wonderful reads, share them with others and in the process, experience the delight and enjoyment that the printed word can offer.

What worked
The romance. Yes, I'm a romantic fool. But I'm not talking of the love story between Walid, the lead character, and Zahra, the Bedouin. The journey towards redemption; the search for life's meaning; the quest for one's dreams and its fulfillment; and the fairy tale ending -- everybody lives happily ever after -- all these appealed to me immensely.

The writing. Gallego-Garcia's language must have been brilliantly beautiful in Spanish that it is equally flavorful in English.

The setting, historical background and local flavor.The exotic land of Arabia during the pre-Muslim epoch evokes great curiosity. This is the stuff I devour -- the past and how it could never be brought back, except in stories.

The characters. Prince Walid is a darling. But as always, the underdog has my vote. The carpet weaver is my hero. Besides, he was a very intelligent librarian and archivist. He's a poet too and he successfully trumped down the prince's talent three times.

What did not work
The old man in the red turban. Then again, it's forgivable since the novel is a story of enchantment. Good thing that Gallego-Garcia made Walid suffer. The presence of the djinn was made credible.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Too busy to blog, but then again...

I'm squeezing this in between break as I am still in Santiago, Isabela at the Grade School unit of the University of La Sallete. It's the second day of accreditation and in ten minuutes, we will begin our wrap-up reporting. These news are too important to miss because it shows how things are coming along in Philippine Children's Literature.

Firts in the list --

On its 18th year, Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang I.N.K.) presents its annual exhibit for 2009, entitled “ForeveRENEver,” a tribute to the late children’s writer Rene O. Villanueva, whose literature has showcased I.N.K. illustrators’ works for several decades now.

Ang I.N.K. pays tribute to one of the most celebrated figures in the landscape of Filipino children’s books with a showcase of more than 30 works that bring to life Rene’s never-been-illustrated literature!

Join Ang I.N.K. in honoring the memory of Rene O. Villanueva, and in ensuring that his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of future generations of Filipino readers.

It's a personal invite I got from Ang INK's Joel Chua. I hope I can make it on November 19, 2009 being the current president of PBBY.

Next in the list --

KUTING & Crucible Gallery's Launch of Growing Up With Philippine Art

And then, this big news for Cacho Publishing and Filipina writer Candy Quimpo-Gourlay --

Former Philippine Daily Inquirer journalist Candy Quimpo Gourlay this week sold her novel TALL STORY to David Fickling Books (DFB), joining a prestigious list that includes John Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) and Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass). DFB praises the book as an outstanding and highly original novel.

Candy, who lives in London, however reserved Philippine publication rights for publisher Ramon Sunico in the Philippines. Sunico is the manager of Cacho Publishing House, which has pioneered in bringing teen fiction to the Philippine publishing scene.

Philippine Children's Litertaure is busy and buzzing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quick Post

The week began with back to back storytelling gigs. I'm on the road now to Santiago, Isabela (North of Luzon) for PAASCU accreditation in La Salette College's Grade School Department.

Will resume regular postings of scheduled entries, storytelling adventures and two book reviews as soon as possible. And I hope the resumption of posting means tonight.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lara Saguisag At Rutgers University

Lara Saguisag poet, children's book writer and of course, Filipina, is featured in Rutgers University's website. Hers is a story of dreams fulfilled.

Lara is the author of There's a Dewende in My Brother's Soup(Lampara Books), a book about a girl coping with the pressures of having an autistic sibling. Her book of poetry, Children of Two Seasons (Anvil Publishing) is a well received collection of poetry for kids by critics here and abroad.

She is currently working on several book projects. We hope to read more of her poetry and books for children.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hindi Ka Nag-Iisa

This video will definitely strengthen Noynoy Aquino's presidential bid.

Composed by: Ogie Alcasid
Sung by: Regine Velasquez

Sasamahan ka namin
Kahit paligid ay madilim
Iilawan ang daan tungo sa magandang kinabukasan.
Ika’y mamuno,kami ay susunod
pagkakaisa’y ating itaguyod
ang Pilipinas ay naghihintay
handa kaming kumilos,handang umalalay.

Hindi ka nag-iisa
sa paggising ng bayan
kami ay kasama,hindi ka mag-iisa.
Isasapuso ang dangal ng ating bayan
Sa tulong at biyaya ng maykapal

Magkakapit bisig,tayo…
ituloy natin laban ni Ninoy at Cory,
Nang bawa’t mamamayan
pagmamahal natin sa bayan
‘wag na nating itago, ‘di tayo susuko

Hindi ka nag-iisa
Sa paggising ng bayan
kami ay kasama,hindi ka mag-iisa
isasa puso ang dangal ng ating bayan

Sa tulong at biyaya ng maykapal
Magkakapit bisig,tayo…
Sama-sama bawat Filipino
Mula noon,ngayon at kailan pa man
hindi ka nag iisa……

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Albert Gamos 1951-2009

Albert Gamos, Filipino illustrator par excellence passed away yesterday, 3 November 2009 at 10:00 in the morning. His remains lie at the Holy Mary Memorial Chapel, Rizal St., Barangay Cutcut, Angeles City Philippines.

Mr. Gamos is a multi-awarded illustrator and an esteemed honorary member of Ang INK (Illustrador Ng Kabataan). He is known for his classical and intricate style of illustrating for children. This is evident in his recent work on Pandakotyong, one of the many books comprising the Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang series of Anvil Publishing.

Filipiniana Rare Books & Ephemera

I have been immersed in the development of a collection on Filipiniana, rare books and the ephemera since August. It is an interesting branch of Library and Information Science. I consider the experience as a re-education. I thought I had it all - an education in the traditional library school that provided for the basic rudiments of the job and the liberal and progressive graduate studies after. As far as learning is concerned, it is never too late to expand one's horizons.

Last week, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Mario Feir and his collection of Filipiniana rare book and ephemera collection. Mr. Feir, collector and bibliophile invites librarians and scholars, even the curious to peruse and browse through his esteemed collection. He has a war books collection and a host of titles on Philippine folk tales. Blair and Robertson's encyclopedia on everything Filipiniana is in his roster of prized possessions.

I leaned towards the children's book collection. Of course. And dear me! Mr. Feir has a copy of Urbana & Felisa, c. 1896.

I've been to modern libraries here and abroad, but the sensual appeal of old books has its own charm and spirit that could easily win me over. I love technology, but there is something about paper that is so naturally endearing. Perhaps, when I set foot in the British Library or the Library of Congress in Washington DC, then my horizon and perspective on books, reading and the library will likewise change.

Mr. Feir can be reached via 02-856-0957. His place is in One McKinley Place, 11A, 26 St., Crescent Park West. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The posh condominium across Crescent Park is Pacific Plaza. There lives another Filipiniana and rare book collector. His story is yet another tale to blog about!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Launching of Crucible-KUTING Art Stories for Children

The launching of the Crucible-KUTING Art Stories for Children series will be held on November 17, 2009, 3-5pm at the Filipinas Heritage Library, Makati Avenue, Makati City. Yas Ortiga's "Tito Arturo Makes Robot Monsters", Gigi Yia's "Laughter on the Wall" and Bong Oris' "Looking Out For Heroes" are the first three books of the series.

See you ate the launch!
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