[#RapplerReads] Children’s books by the Juanas of Looking for Juan

Jaco Joves

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[#RapplerReads] Children’s books by the Juanas of Looking for Juan
From creators to staff, women lead this social enterprise

Editor’s note: #RapplerReads is a project by the BrandRap team. The books featured in this list were provided by our partner, Looking for Juan. We earn a commission every time you shop through the affiliate links below.

There’s no field a woman has not yet conquered, literature included. From the greats such as the Brontë sisters and Paz Marquez-Benitez to the contemporary likes of Louise Glück and Jessica Hagedorn, we can say without batting an eyelash that women do their fair share of running (and writing for) the world.

And at online store Looking for Juan (LFJ), women dominate not only its roster of authors and illustrators, but also its employees – that’s six out of seven staff. This makes it easier for them and their publishing partner, CANVAS, to depict women accurately in their children’s stories, and be in charge of charting their narratives.

“Women in both the art and/or literacy scenes are now the ones creating meaningful, distinct, and inspiring works. The prevailing notion of seeing, understanding, and learning things only through the male lens should be put to rest because women have also been contributing significantly to arts and literature. People continuously draw inspiration from women’s works’ ideas, beliefs, lives, and struggles,” said Larissa Chavez, LFJ’s CEO.

This determination drives everyone (and Juana) at LFJ to collaborate with more female artists and writers, as they know that the crusade for “women’s rights and representation in the arts” has a long way to go.

LFJ’s 2022 is just getting started, however. Aside from fostering girl power, more projects lined up include touching “on narratives of nationhood and connectedness,” as well as releasing new CANVAS books in the coming months – including a “timely story considering the upcoming elections” and “a cooking book for Filipino kids.”

For now, let’s celebrate Women’s Month by appreciating female artistry through LFJ and CANVAS’ shining works, as penned and illustrated by women:

Nadia and the Blue Stars

Written by Francesca Nicole Chan Torres

Illustrated by Liv Vinluan

Nadia and the Blue Stars is about a girl who was forced to flee her village when war broke out, and how she was able to eventually return and, by quiet and persistent action, was able to help heal the broken land. From a painting, to a story, to a book, to a tool for psychosocial therapy, to two musicals, all benefiting tens of thousands of children, this text best exemplifies the ripple effect of change and inspiration in our art and stories.

Daughter and the Great Fish

Written by Loren Peria

Illustrated by Jeho Betancor

Daughter and the Great Fish is an empowering story of a girl’s strength. Written by a student facilitator Loren Peria who works closely with children, the story is about Daughter’s journey to save  her land cursed by a Great Fish. The only hope lies in Daughter – strong and independent, brave and determined – to find and bring the Great Fish home.

Earth Tales: 3 Ecofables for Children

Illustrated by Plet Bolipata, Liza Flores, and Ivee Olivares-Mellor

Earth Tales was a special collaboration of three Filipina artists, consisting of three fables that talk about environmental preservation – even through little initiatives. These ecofables aim to challenge young readers to observe their surroundings, instigate environmental changes, and encourage others to do the same.

Mga Munting Patak ng Ulan

Written by Jessica Olmedo

Illustrated by Alee Garibay

Mga Munting Patak ng Ulan was a collaboration of two women in different fields – Jessica Olmedo, who has a political economy and law degree, and Alee Garibay, a full-time visual artist based in Cavite.

As Jessica’s first children’s book, the story drew from her experiences in pursuing her dreams, as represented through a tiny raindrop. Garibay, on the other hand, said of her design inspiration: “I have always been drawn to the nostalgic, cinematic, even magical quality of old Filipiniana photos and a lot of my paintings incorporate imagery based on these photos.”

Tahan na, Tahanan

Written by Maria Isabel Alarilla Arellano

Inspired by a painting by Don Salubayba, Maria Isabel “Issa” Alarilla-Arellano wrote Tahan Na, Tahanan based on her experiences, having lived in at least 20 different houses throughout her life. The story tackled the concept of change in the context of a home. The main protagonist was about to leave her family home to move into a bigger and more beautiful house when she suddenly became nostalgic of her experiences in the old house and its community.

Ang Anghel ng Sta. Ana

Written by Josephine de Dios

Illustrated by Johanna Helmuth

Identical twin sisters Anita and Winona love theater. Each year, their town of Santa Ana stages a special play whose lead role is reserved only for 11 to 12-year-old girls. And they have just turned 11 this year! One is confident and the other one shy, but they have one thing in common – they both want this once-a-year lead role. Who will snag the coveted starring role in the town’s most important play?

Si Ponyang at ang Lihim ng Kweba

Illustrated by Sarah Geneblazo

Ponyang is a girl who quickly becomes elusive after class, much to the curiosity of her good friend Potpot. “Where could she be rushing to?” wonders Potpot. One day, he follows her and arrives at a cave she has been frequenting. Here, Ponyang’s small act of change unfolds.

Artist Sarah Geneblazo animates Melvin Atole’s winning story by depicting Ponyang’s silent but free-willed personality through her realistic, contemporary, and feminist artworks.

An engaging and captivating piece of art can be a girl’s first frontier into self-exploration.

One of the author-illustrators, Liza Flores, framed it perfectly: “For many children, especially here in the Philippines, their first encounter with art is the picture book. So for young girls to see Filipina artists creating these pictures can also open their mind to what is possible for them.”

The liminal space between art and literature has enough room for women who dare defy convention and judgment. And by grabbing a copy for a loved one, or to empower the self, you are helping the cause make great strides. – Rappler.com

All of these works were published by CANVAS, and are sold through Looking for Juan as its e-commerce partner. Each purchase is matched with donations to children in different parts of the country through their “Buy 1, Donate Books to Juan” program. To date, over 420,184 books have been donated, with the goal of hitting 1 million.

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Jaco Joves

Jaco was a senior content producer for Rappler's BrandRap team.