Three cousins representing the diverse cultural groups who inhabit the Philippines take readers on a tour of the many islands that make up the archipelago.
Mary, Jaime, and Ari are the offspring of three sisters from the Ifugao people of Luzon, but their fathers are of Chinese, Spanish, and Muslim Arab descent. This device lends an artificial, idealized spin to the diversity question, but it gets the job done. No mention is made of the contemporary rise of Muslim separatists, although the section on history notes that the Americans “impos[ed] their style of democratic authority.” The emphasis is on cultural activities, including religious holidays, and favorite foods (with recipes for pancit, a noodle dish; polveron, a candy made from powdered milk; and halo-halo, a combination of fruits and beans with ice, sugar, and milk). There are descriptions of games including sipa, which is similar to hacky sack, with directions for making your own sipa, and sungka, also known as mancala in Africa and the Middle East. Unfortunately, instructions are not clear enough to really play. The only craft is a modified parol, a Christmas decoration. A creation myth and one song are included, but the book’s real strength is the description of activities and life in different parts of the country.
The large format and attractive, cartoonlike illustrations provide an inviting look at a country not often included in many other resources for children. (websites, index ) (Nonfiction. 7-10)