Tolits by Genaro R. Gojo Cruz : A Book Review

tolitsI am a poor book detective, but I have a mission: to read all Genaro Gojo Cruz’s children’s books. I am afflicted by his “childhood-drama effect” after reading his YA, Connect the Dots o Kung Paano Ko Kinulayan ang Aking Buhay. However, I  do not buy his children’s books; I just have my own copy of his YA. As you know, I scrimp on books I want to treasure for the posterity since I dream of building my very own private library as big as half of my house. Besides, I regret spending 75 pesos because I can spend this amount on two or three books at Book Sale, the famous second-hand book store in the Philippines. I will just  get a book if I can no longer resist myself from it, a best-seller  hyped up by my friends on Goodreads.

Although Gojo Cruz is now one of my favorite children’s books writers, I still put him into a pigeonhole, on the list of the books I want to hoard and display in my library someday. So, what I am trying to rationalize  is that I drop into National Book Store branches   to check upon   some of his works and read them privately. (One time, I was even caught by a clerk burying myself in a book I held for  more than 30 minutes, so I was blocked by the guard at the exit area  to check my bag for SOP. Come on, guard, I was not born yesterday. SOP stands  for Security Operation Procedure. What an acronym! ) Luckily,  I have read seven of them  at different NBS branches such as:

  1. Ang Batang May Maraming Maraming Bahay
  2. Mahabang-Mahabang-Mahaba
  3. Ang Aking Photo Album
  4. Noong Nakaraang Taon
  5. Bunsoy
  6. Saling Pusa
  7. Anluwagi

Why do I appear so addicted to  reading Genaro Gojo Cruz’s  children’s  books?  You can understand me if you start reading his  first YA I mentioned above.  I noticed that   same reaction from another fan on Goodreads. In his YA, Genaro told  a story about  a boy, himself , who cried  deep inside for the poverty and being “incomplete”  in his life. So, through reading his children’s books, you can penetrate the depth of the story as if they have been drawn from deep experiences. You may not burst into tears , but you can feel  the burning  sensation  smarting in the deepest part of your heart that  you cannot even  pour it out. It just moves there around  without cease until they appease for goods.

The   only problem is his books are always out of stock. They may be best-sellers. If so, I am happy for Mr. Gojo Cruz.  His books are indeed worth reading. Thus, I have a hard time finding his other books. I drop into from one book store to another since there are three malls adjacent to another near  our place. Gee, you may now find  me idiosyncratic. Yes, I am a walking dead -bookworm zombie moving from one mall to another clockwise. I have no compunction for this. 🙂

After a fairly long time, tadaaa!!! I  have found one of his books, TOLITS. I found it at another NBS branch nearer our place where I had never thought of  dropping by , for  I do not like its ambiance.

Little did I  know that TOLITS is a match stick. I thought that it was a character of a young boy because we moniker   someone like that here in the Philippines. Besides, I have understood that  a young boy is also called TOLITS because he is scrawny. So, the story turns out to be about a scrawny   young boy match stick who is curious about why his parents and other relatives try to hide him underneath them once the window is opened by   big fingers.

The story is a little bit disturbing. Perhaps, I detached myself from the reality, or I am   more used to reading Gojo Cruz’s   books which reflect in the real mirror of life and  permeate  through my heart.  Besides, I have still been confounded   at how I can relate his story to other situation and even squeeze its  moral lesson out of me. Nevertheless, Gojo Cruz has proved his skills in being a   children’s raconteur  in this story once again. A match, full of sticks,  is enough to materialize his   imagination. Besides, I liked the fact that reading it did not give me any clues of what the story is all about.   As usual, his common trademark   at the end of the story is a tear-jerker although it is not that as emotionally penetrating as his Ang Batang May Maraming Maraming Bahay.  .

It is now my 8th Genaro Gojo Cruz’s children’s books. I am now  more  driven to hunt his other books. I am going to gallivant like  a madman  at another  National Book Store outlets if the need arises. So, my next missions are:

  1. Ang Dyip ni Mang Tomas
  2. Ang Malaking Kahon ng Sorpresa
  3. Pitong Angel
  4. Hello, Tatay!
  5. Ang Aking Pamilya
  6. Ang Bahaghari
  7. Maghapon Namin ni Nanay
  8. Malaking-Malaking Bahay
  9. Si Nanay Mining at ang Tatlong Kuting
  10. Ang Lumang Aparador ni Lola
  11. Ang Asul na Kariton
  12. Ang Kamisetang Dilaw

 And his  newest  ones: Pwede Na Ba Akong Mag-alaga ng Kuting?  which was published last year and Gaano Ba Kalayo ang Paaralan? which he launched last Saturday at SM North EDSA. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend  his launching and book signing  because it was too late when I found it out on his Facebook status. Besides, my copy of his YA was not with me.

I admit that after reading TOLITS, I have now this desire to buy all Gojo Cruz’s books I have read already. I should not just  read them. I want to share them with my younger sister and young nephews and nieces and keep them for the posterity. (sighs) I wish I did not have to   scrimp and save for  books that make my mouth water whenever I see and touch them at NBS.

Book Title: TOLITS:  

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

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Bunsoy by Genaro R. Gojo Cruz: A Book Review

Bunsoy_cover.jpg_2Literally, “ bunsoy” in Filipino means the youngest child or sibling in a family. But the word is also used as a moniker in cuddling the youngest or when a family, particularly parents, pampers him/her. So sometimes, the youngest is said to be the spoiled brat. (But I completely disagree about this stereotype. Every child is special. ^^ )

The story is about a father who seems to be talking to his “bunsoy” in his arms as though he sings him a lullaby. He sweetly tells him that he be kind and patient while growing up, for his parents eke out a living for him.

The story is typical of a father who works abroad expressing his nostalgia for his baby on Facebook.

I felt how the father deeply loves his “bunsoy”. However, I can’t relate to the story. May be I am too old to read such a children book, or I am not the youngest child in the family. Nevertheless, I know how it feels to being lovingly caressed by parents.

Genaro Gojo Gruz is also the youngest child among the siblings. As far as I remember, he once experienced to be the object of his father’s affection despite the fact that his father was consummate indifferent to him.

Rating: 2/ 5 stars ( It’s ok. )

Home (Gilead #2) by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review

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“You must forgive in order to understand.” Marilynne Robinson, Home

There may be different kinds of readers. Readers who read something exciting that you almost tear or crumple the next page, something intriguing which  scenes or characters dwell upon you, something compelling that you would be keyed-up about and share with your friends, or something that you are excited to wait for its sequel. I may be this kind of reader. However, it has always occurred to me how a reader puts up with something quiet, something that does not show liveliness among the characters in the story, and something that a writer intends to tell in a smooth, calm voice, and something that can make you throw it up in the air, for you find it so boring. HOME by Marilynne Robinson is the one that could be mistaken for. Nonetheless, there is something far different about this book, something newer, more unparalleled than I had expected.

This book does not only beg the question of what HOME is, but also this is conducive to catharsis. If you have these pent-up emotions, reading it can somehow soothe you. You might not help yourself holding back your tears, welling up in your eyes. If you have been nursing a grudge against your father or even against any member of the family- brother, sister, or mother- you might cave in to forgiveness. You may not harbor ill will toward them. In fact, this book is reminiscent of your childhood. You might remember all the moments you spent with your family at a place you considered your HOME, and now they are gone. So when you read this book, you might have these indescribable feelings whenever you turn each page as though you are being healed, for you may relate to the story. But I believe whoever reads it can be vulnerable.

This book, no doubt, won the 2009 Orange Prize  for fiction, Long  Angeles TIMES Book Prize  , one of the “100 Notable Books of 2008” by The New York Times, one of the “Best Books of 2008” by The Washington Post, one of the “Favorite Books 2008” of The Los Angeles Times, one of the “Best Books of 2008” of The San Francisco Chronicle, as well as one of The New Yorker book critic James Wood’s ten favorite books of 2008. (Source: Wikipedia)

Despite the fact that its author has received a good deal of prestigious awards and is well-known for her other critically acclaimed novels such as Gilead  and Housekeeping, I had not  laid a finger on nor given a thought of buying it even though it is almost dirty cheap in BOOKSALE branches . In addition, its common cover in any publishing edition, illustrating a rocking chair, known as Morris chair in the story, had given me an idea that this book might have been monotonous. But not at all! This turned out to be a good read and I would highly recommend it to everybody.

Mmm,I want to get healed more by Marilynne Robinson by reading her Gilead which is a companion to Home. Although I should have first read the Gilead,giving it 4 stars is reasonable; I really liked it.

I can predict that M. Robinson will be one of my favorite writers. ^^

Rating : 4/ 5 stars  ( I really liked it. )

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin: A Book Review

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Reading the novel with my Korean student

What would you DO if your mother went missing? Would you look for her by distributing an avalanche of flyers in public, or making a spate of announcements on TV? What would you FEEL if your mother disappeared? Would you feel indifferent to it? Would you lose interest in doing anything? Would you not be able to concentrate on your work? Probably, you would. Basically, the novel deals with what a perfect mother in general is like as well as deep regrets about how we treat our mothers. Also, it shows the contemporary Korean family traditions.

Park So-nyo is a mother to three children. I would say that she is an epitome of a perfect mother, an indefatigable mother who never gets tired of working around-the-clock for the sakes of her children, a mother who understands what it feels like to be a child, a mother- although illiterate she is – who always thinks of what is good for her children; most importantly, a mother who never robs her children of RESPECT and LOVE. For sure, her home is conducive to a healthy living despite her family lacks the trappings of life.

The novel must illustrate how we bitterly regret when our mothers disappears. Probably, we will miss her badly like an abandoned orphan. We may blame ourselves for all the things we have done. As a matter of fact, the novel manifests three kinds of regrets:

(a) Father/husband’s regrets. Betrothed at an early age to a woman he has never met, So-nyo’s husband becomes indifferent and stoical. Eventually, with great regret about maltreating her, he will come back to his senses that he loves her after all, for he will realize how responsible mother she is. A common scene in movies and TV dramas we have seen.
(b) Children’s regrets. Although nurtured with unconditional love, So-nyo’s children will realize their shortcomings- how they make lights of their mother’s sacrifice and lessons she teaches to them. It happens to us, doesn’t it? Especially, while we are still growing up, or on the cusp of fulfilling our dreams, when we enjoy our lives to the fullest.
(c) Kinfolk’s regrets. In the novel, So-nyo’ husband’s kins seem to detest her a lot. However, when So-nyo goes missing, some will realize how good she has been to her family.

The review on its back is right that “… you will never think of your mother the same way after you read it. “ While I was reading it, it punched my heart, for it reminded me of my late mother. Like So-nyo’s husband and children, I have regretted a lot. I wish I had done it. I wish had not done it. I wish I could do it for her now. But alas, she has gone. So like what So-nyo’s daughter Chi-hon ‘s final message, “ Please, look after your mom.”

I think, therefore, that the novel is all about the contemporary family culture and customs in South Korea. I think park So-nyo could be the archetype of what a particular mother is like in Korea. Besides, the novel limns the importance of having a first son in a family.

The style of the novel is unusual for me. This is my first time to have read a novel with more than three or four narrators, so the writing is said to be sharp, biting, and intensely moving despite the fact that I am familiar with the concept of the story.

What I liked about the novel is its vivid descriptions of the Korean cuisine I have eaten already. Although the foods are translated into English, I could- aside from kimchi , panchan, and persimmon- guess what foods are being mentioned:

(a) Perilla leaves- kaenyip
(b) The noodles- ramen
(c) The beer mixed with sojju- maggoli
(d) The long white rice cake – garae tok
(e) The sea weed soup-miyok guk
(f) The rice wrapped with green sea weed- gimbap
(g) Sautéed anchovies- myeol chi
(h) Red-paste pepper- gochugang
(i) The mashed pumpkin soup- hobakjuk
(j) Braised tofu- tofujorim
(k) Boiled octopus- ojengo

Kudos to its translator , Chi young Kim! The foods made my mouth water. ^_^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars

Papa’s House, Mama’s House by Jean Lee C. Patindol ( Author ) , Mark Salvatus ( Illustrator): A Book Review

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I‘ve got a ” I-Read-Like-a- Child Syndrome”  now.

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A heart-breaking scene in the story:

One day I asked Papa,

“ Papa, why can’t you and Mama live with us in one home?”

Papa said, “ Do you think trains and planes  can  fly together ?”

And I said,  “ Uhmm… I guess not. Trains go by land and planes fly  in air”.

Papa patted my head and smiled.

The next day, I asked Mama.

“ Mama, why can’t you and Papa live with us in one home?”

Mama took out my paint  set and said,

“ Let’s mix white and yellow together. What color do you get?”

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I felt as though I was the mother being asked by the child, at loss for words , confused  how I should explain to a child about my  separation from my husband. The same situation if I were the father.

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The story is the imaginary product of the writer’s true experience  when , some weeks after  she and her husband separated,  her five-year-old son asked her,

“ Mama, what is a broken home?”

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As the writer is aware of how a broken family usually goes like, the mother   and the  father came to terms that their three children: Bianca, Anna, and  probably the youngest –daughter narrator , will take spend time with each other according to the days agreed upon. The three daughters will stay with their mother from Mondays to Thursdays; with their father from Fridays to Sundays. The story  also tells  the way they perceive their parents personality as they  get along with them. For them, their father  sounds somewhat  a stickler for  whatever they do  whereas their mother is somewhat lenient as long as they are responsible for the  things they do.  As they grow up,  they come to the point that they are confused about their  differences with other families.

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I may be a broken family  , not in a literal meaning as the  common perception of society that a mother and  father separate  but in a sense that  my mother passed away when my   younger sister was still three years old then. We were also still considered young  at that time, for we were not responsible enough for ourselves. So, no wonder  this book had  an emotional impact on me. I felt as if there is something missing  in my life that I have been looking for and I see in  other families wih envy. Besides, I understand the writer, probably so do you if you are in the same boat. But I know anyone can be affected by this.

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Another  thing that I liked in this book is its unique , but semi-abstract illustrations. Its  highlight backdrop is as red as Chinese lucky color( I guess the writer is the extract of Chinese.  ); then, mixed with Filipino things.

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With the benefit of hindsight, I want to realize how this book educates children since this is recommended for kids ages 6 and above. I have come up with a developmental psychologist’s review:

“ It sends the message that children in “ two homes” are not different, nor are they loved and nurtured any less by their parents, than children in two- parent homes. “ Papa’s House, Mama’s House opens the way for greater tolerance , understanding, and empathy in children and adults alike. “

Despite the expert’s opinion, honestly, I still doubt how this book affects a young reader. If I pursued my dream to be a child psychologist, it would be my ideal subject of scientific studies.

I enjoy reading children books now. It may be due to my deprivation when I was still young  that  my  parents were not able to  buy  me books a child should read.

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Literary Awards: 2004 PBBY-Salanga Grand Prize Winner/ 2004 PBBY-Alcala Grand Prize Winner

Rating:                4/5 stars