4. What are your Top 5 children’s books? What makes them special?
Sarimanok and Ibong Adarna by Nick Joaquin
- This book was part of the set Pop Stories for Groovy Kids that was published by Mr. & Mrs. in the 1970s. They are fantastic big books with amazing illustrations and crazy stories written by our National Artist for Literature. In particular, this story was a retelling and reinvention of “Ang Ibong Adarna” but updated for a modern audience, and I loved that both protagonists were girls who were impetuous and brave and adventurous.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
- I am a big, big fan of Jon Klassen but this is my favorite book in The Hat Trilogy. The pacing is hilarious and the ending is both macabre but at the same time it just kills you with laughter.
Leo the Late Bloomer by Jose Aruego
- This is another book that came out in the 1980s, I think, and I remember reading this and thinking that I am like Leo, that I liked observing things and thinking about things and watching other people do things before I did something. I could relate to Leo’s feelings of being inadequate, and I was also very lucky that I had supportive parents who allowed me to find my own way.
Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak
- This is a gorgeously-illustrated book that is reminiscent of the film “The Labyrinth” with David Bowie, except that there was no Elf King in this story. It follows the same pattern, with a child kidnapped by goblins and an older sister trying to find him. The drawings are exquisite and detailed and quite uncanny, if you think about it, and very unlike the Maurice Sendak we see in other books. I think I also liked this book because there were times when I was wondering if my baby brother was kidnapped, which was why he was so noisy. 🙂
We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems
- This is one of the Elephant and Piggy books, but what I love about this particular volume is its use of metafictive techniques in order to show the child reader the value of reading as well as the physicality of a book. It’s a great little tribute to stories and oral storytelling, and I love using this book for storytelling sessions because it’s so much fun.
Luis and the Enchanted Creatures by Marcy Dans-Lee
- I know, this is an extra one, but I need to mention my mom’s book because otherwise she’ll strangle me. 😀 But truly, this is probably one of the first children’s stories that focused on modernizing and reconfiguring our perception of some of the better-known creatures of Philippine lower mythology, and I love this book for it.
5. What is a story you wish you had written?
I have two books that I wish I wrote: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Both of them capture the alienation and wonder of childhood in a truthful and recognizable manner. They don’t shy away from the complexities and strangeness of being a child - rather, they explore it bravely, and show us the magic and resilience of childhood.
Visit Ms. Lee’s official author website,Sometimes Sunlight for more of her adventures, stories and essays.