Option 21: Leaf and Shadow by Cyan Abad-Jugo
(See the Giveaways page for more information)
Late that evening, Louie dreamed. The Balete Tree had come to life, looking like a gnarled old man, but ten times as tall, and dark of skin, blood-red of smile. He sucked on a huge tobacco and smothered the air with its thick smell. Smoke rose into the leaves that were his hair, and as Louie watched the smoke, he found himself staring into a pair of gleaming eyes. Several shadowy arms sprouted from the trunk, all entangled and run through with veins. They reached for him, wrapped around him, plucked off the slice of cake he held in his hands.
"I told you not to tell those tales," Lola scolded Old Manang the next day. "There is no such thing as a kapre, and there is certainly none living in that tree right now."
--from "The Kapre's Mark"
This year's June Giveaway doesn't have a theme, but if it did, "Green and Growing Things" would sum up what we have so far. We've visited some barrios and watched a homestead take root: reading that has kept us grounded. But Philippine folklore grows out of the very same ground, and it was inevitable that we'd come to see something fantastic peering at us from behind the fauna.
It is this weaving together of "leaf and shadow" which I like most about Cyan Abad-Jugo's four short stories.
Pictured: Balete Tree
There are four stories in the collection. In the first, we meet an anito who once lived in a narra tree and now lives in the cabinet made from its wood. In the second, a carving from a massive piece of molave seems to take on a life of its own. In the third, a trio of siblings fear they have awakened the kapre which lives in their grandmother's balete tree. And of course that one is my favourite! (There is a fourth story, but it doesn't have a single tree in it--just a bunch of shadows--so never mind.)
If they sound this good in seed form, then they must be wondrous as fully finished stories, aye? But we can only dream. Every story in Leaf and Shadow is still a tiny seedling. I read the entire book in less than an hour and couldn't believe it.
I'd really like to see a future edition of Leaf and Shadow done as a proper picture book, with full-colour illustrations on every page--something to reflect the fact that these are stories for small children. Which is not to say that they're bad. In fact, they're pretty decent, if not as edgy as I'd like. But as they are, they shouldn't be hidden under the bushel of a chapter book format.
You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you have a young child to read these stories to. (Inner children count!)
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Image Source: a) Leaf and Shadow by Cyan Abad-Jugo, b) Siquijor balete tree