The National Book Development Board (NBDB) and the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) presented the first ever National Children’s Book Awards last July 24 at the Mandarin Oriental in Makati City.

From out of 131 children’s books nominated this year, the board of judges awarded Araw sa Palengke (Adarna House) written by May Tobias-Papa and illustrated by Isabel Roxas; Tuwing Sabado (Lampara Books) written by Russell Molina andillustrated by Sergio Bumatay III; Can WeLive on Mars (Adarna House) written by Gidget Roceles-Jimenez and illustrated by Bru; Lub-Dub, Lub-Dub(Bookmark) written by Russell Molina and illustrated by Jomike Tejido; Tagu-Taguan (Tahanan Books) written and illustrated by Jomike Tejido; and JustAdd Dirt (Adarna) written by Becky Bravo and illustrated by Jason Moss as this year’s winners.

Below are the citations given by the judges to the winning books:

Araw sa Palengke
Written by May Tobias-Papa
Illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Adarna, 2008

“Makinig ka nang mabuti,” her mother tells her. “Humawak ka saakin nang mahigpit, ha? Para hindi ka mawala.At hindi puwedeng magturo ng ipabibili.” And so the story begins with a promise: “Opo, Nanay, pangako po.”

Early one morning, a little girl accompanies her mother to the market. They take readers with them. The market is hot and noisy, smelly and muddy, but it’s also fascinating and colorful, because it’s seen from a point of view that’s only about three feet tall. When they arrive home, and our little girl unpacks the bayong to find a surprise wrapped in newspaper at the bottom, it’s her joy we feel in the little dance that she does.

Araw sa Palengke is a true marriage of text and visual image. The story by May Tobias-Papa is gentle and straightforward, and the illustrations by Isabel Roxas are charming and finely detailed. The result is a lighthearted picture book that is nuanced, controlled, and thoroughly engaging. A really good read.

CanWe Live on Mars?: A Book About Space
Written by Gidget Roceles-Jimenez
Illustrated by Bru
Adarna, 2009

One interesting concern that was raised among the judges was that appropriate reading for ages 9-12 was sadly lacking in the market. Here then is a book that is both educational and entertaining for kids at the threshold of adolescence -kids ready for meaty facts, yet still profiting from the visual and often humorous support of illustrations. The title of the book, Can We Live on Mars?, aptly echoes children’s questions about astronomy and its functionin culture and society. This book is serious fun. Written, illustrated,and designed as a handy collection of facts and activities about the study of space, Can We Live on Mars? provides concise and enjoyable reading and should be a useful supplement to science textbooks in schools today.

Roceles-Jimenez’s writing effectively converses with young readers, while the illustrations provided by Bru ensure the liveliness of this exchange. Finally, the challenge of keeping these elements integrated and organized was met by book designer Lesley Lim.

By locating the Philippines in the constellation of achievements in the history of astronomy, Can WeLive on Mars? boosts our sense of identity and creativity. It is an empowering and inspiring book, giving students sound ideas on what they can doas budding scientists and responsible global citizens now and into the future.

Just Add Dirt
Written by Becky Bravo
Illustrated by Jason Moss
Adarna, 2009

One morning, Miguel wakes up to find little mung bean seedlings growing out of his ears. “That’s what you get for not taking a bath,” his mother says quite nonchalantly. Miguel promises to take a bath, but he keeps putting it off so that he can play with his friends. Meanwhile, more and more plants start growing all over his body – a veritable vegetable garden! Miguel startsto panic, but his mother remains cool and calm.

Becky Bravo has written very interesting characters and a funny, immensely entertaining story. Jason Moss’ colorful, vivid, and detailed illustrations add even more humor to the book. Just Add Dirt will have children giggling behind their hands, then bursting into loud and hearty laughter. And they just might think twice about not taking a bath….

Written by Russell Molina
Illustrated by Jomike Tejido
Bookmark, 2008

Dr. Fe del Mundo’s devotion to her profession is clearly yet dispassionately rendered from the point of view of an observer who is a child. Details of her achievement are brought out in natural settings – the hallway leading to her office documenting her career in photographs or a dinner conversation betweenthe child and her parents. The book has an uplifting theme shown withoutsounding preachy and pedantic. The title suggests the sound of a beating heart- a gift shared by all – thus gently disputing the child’s original claim thather younger sister is “different”.

Written and illustrated by Jomike Tejido
Tahanan, 2009

As the title suggests, these backyard creatures are not always obvious. Theyare surprising finds when one cares to seek them out. Mr. Tejido utilizes afull range of earth colors and jewel tones while carefully integrating texture into his illustrations. The creatures are in their proper habitats, but their surroundings never overwhelm them. Each creature is carefully drawn, welldefined, and well proportioned. The proboscises of the butterflies, thesegments of the earthworms, the thorny hind legs of the grasshoppers, and thejoints of the spiders’ legs are a few examples of the exact anatomical detailsin a book that is both artistic and accurate.

Mr. Tejido’s decision to start at ten and count backwards adds a refreshing perspective to this book. Rote counting backwards is a necessary skill and it is never too early to introduce that skill to children.

Tuwing Sabado
Written by Russell Molina
Illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III
Lampara, 2009

The child in this story anticipates every Saturday, as it is the only day he can be with his father. We are caught up in the excitement of the child. And why not? The father is an amazing man! He always has something new in store for his son. He entertains, he cooks, he teaches, he steels his son for the future.It is easy to be drawn into the child’s narrative. We wish with him that Saturdays would come more quickly than every seven days. One is then taken aback by the surprise revealed at the end of the book. The carefully omitted background details and the characters’ clown-like faces in the illustrations succeed in showing the intimacy and wonder between the child and his father and in keeping the secret until the very end.

This year’s board of judges is composed of: Dr. Lina Diaz de Rivera, a former reading professor from the University of the Philippines and a multi-awarded children’s book author; Karen Ocampo Flores, visual artist, curator, and writer, and recipient of the Thirteen Artists Award from the CCP; Ana Maria Rodriguez, a former elementary level teacher at the International School Manila; Maria ElenaLocsin, an author and teachers of language arts with a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education; and Tarie Sabido, a blogger of children’s and young adult books is taking up her MA in English Studies at the University of the Philippines.

The NCBA is the first award of its kind that recognizes the country’s best published children’s books, which include both works of fiction and nonfiction. This year, the NBDB and PBBY accepted nominations of books published in 2008 and 2009.

The 2010 NCBA was made possible in partnership with Manila Bulletin and Jollibee.