[Saturday Reads] The Tastes of Summer in a Delectable Filipino American 2021 picturebook


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

typorama 13

We are featuring books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. Books that are part of an ongoing series
  2. Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
  3. Short story collections
  4. Narratives of a similar genre
  5. Stories written by same author

Throughout the entire week, I have been sharing stories of grandfathers and grandmothers. Today, I have decided to just highlight one story that is most likely going to make it to my top picturebook reads of the year. While this is technically not part of a series of books (I wish, though, that it was), it is part of a series of intergenerational stories that I am sharing this week.

When Lola Visits (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by: Michelle Sterling Illustrated by: Aaron Asis Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (2021) ISBN: 9780062972859 (ISBN10: 0062972855). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

How do I know summer is here?

While summer is definitely over and the smell of autumn is now in the air, this picturebook begins with the wide-eyed question that most young children eager to play all day and return school textbooks back to their lonely shelves are wont to ask.

Yet what makes this book special for me is that it doesn’t just feature ‘most young children’ but Filipino American children, whose lola visits every summer, bringing the sounds and smells and tastes of the much awaited season with her.

Each page is drool-worthy with the cassava cake in the oven, the sizzling sisig, even the smell of sampaguita soap in Lola’s hands. There is also a celebration of both Filipino and Ilocano, which was highlighted in this page here:

Every time I read this picturebook aloud, I cannot help but tear up – and I don’t even know why. Perhaps I am getting to be maudlin in my old age, or it could also be because this story surfaces all the things I love about my culture – with food preparation tied to comfort, the meals always meticulously prepared with deep affection and loud irreverent laughter and songs that breathe life and love.

The hybridity of one’s culture is purposively highlighted here with the seemingly-casual mention of fireworks on the Fourth of July – yet it is deeply embedded into the narrative rather than perceived as a separate, noteworthy, weighty “theme” of sorts.

Everything in this picturebook is spoken in a child’s bright voice with the lingering aftertaste of arroz caldo. I fervently hope this book wins all the awards next year, if only to make it more accessible and available to a whole new generation of readers who are in dire need of its soul-nourishing sustenance.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 92 out of target 100

September 11, 2021 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal