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Francesca: Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! Book Review and Interview with the Author & Illustrator

About the Book & Why We Love it:

Francesca: Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! is a charming children’s picture book about a birthday party for a young girl named Francesca. It is translated in both English and Tagalog and introduces the concepts of numbers 1-10, colors, some clothing pieces, and Filipino party traditions.

Author, Cel Tria, and illustrator Gel Relova, did a beautiful job of creating a bright, joyful book to teach children basic Tagalog vocabulary with a theme that is so relatable to children.

Not only is this adorable book available in softcover, but you can also get an interactive e-Book version of Francesca: Isa, Dalawa, Sorpresa! Philip & Ana Publishing took it a step further and made it possible for children to listen to the narration of the story (by Nikki Gil-Albert) in both English and Tagalog, but to also have the capability of interacting with the words and pictures on mobile devices. Having the touchscreen capability and hearing repetition of the words in English and Tagalog strongly reinforces learning and the retention of the words. This is such an innovative Filipino children’s book! How many Filipino children’s books can you name out there that currently do this?

Want to see inside the book?  I made a video walk-through of the e-Book and softcover.  Get a closer look at the features of Francesa  on our IGTV video post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzTmCqRggi7/

Interview with the Author – Cel Tria

Q: Where did the inspiration come from to create Francesca?

A: “Francesca is a work of fiction but I’ve drawn from our various experiences as a family.  I was inspired by both our daughters and also by the people we’ve met along the way.

I loved how Gel, the illustrator, captured the multiculturalism of the guests.  I described the ethnicity of each character and they all turned out so well!  Regarding the games, I remember the first piñata with strings that I bought, and I thought that it might not be as exciting, but it is definitely safer!  We never had pabitin in any of our kids’ parties yet, but both my husband and I recall having participated in them as children.  

And look at this photo, notice the similarities with the balloons page.  We had a celebration with just 3 guests because the table for the tea party only had 4 matching chairs!  But it was fabulous anyway and the kids had fun and they became best friends.

This table setting served as an inspiration for Francesca’s celebration.

The spread on the food table is what you would typically find in Filipino celebrations everywhere. 

Friends of Philip & Ana Publishing enjoyed replicating the first page of Francesca for this book event.

Q: What other work have you written?

A: “I’ve written the next book in this Francesca series.  (Yes, it’s a series!) I’m excited about that and the creative process.  We’re about to start the illustrations.   It’s so much fun imagining the scenes, communicating those visions to Gel and then seeing her wonderful interpretations.”

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be an author? 

A: “Originally, when we were living in the States, I was hoping to import books and make them available to the Filipino community because we ourselves found it difficult to access this kind of materials for our children.  Then when the iPhone/iPad came out, I thought that would be a good medium too, with sound and interactive features.  I encountered setbacks in trying to bring in existing content in either format though.

One day my husband suggested that I could make my own, that maybe I should write a book.  It took a while for this to sink in, but when it did I thought it was a marvelous idea. I loved reading since I was a kid and had been writing for school papers.  The possibilities of creative writing were delightful!  That was around 2013 when I started, and by then, we have moved to Australia. ” 

Q: What are your favorite genres of books?

a) To read: “When it comes to adult genres, I am now more inclined to read non-fiction.  Recently, I really liked books by Gretchen Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell, I appreciate the fascinating information presented based on lots of research.  I’m happy to admit though that I love children’s fiction and still read them! (For research, wink, wink!)”

b) To create: “So far, I’ve only written children’s picture books, but I’d like to try my hand at chapter books as well, and adult fiction and non-fiction.  However, I think I’ll always love the process of creating picture books because it’s so great to see imagined scenes manifested in lovely illustrations.”

Q: Will you tell us more about Philip & Ana Publishing Company? (How it came to be and what you hope to do?)

A: It is a publishing company registered in the Philippines, started in 2016 by 5 Filipina founding directors, including myself.  We mostly communicate online because of our locations, 3 different regions in the Philippines, Japan and Australia.  The goal is to promote the love of reading and learning, create content that celebrate the Philippine languages and culture and other cultures of the world, and give back to the community.  We dream of many more Filipinos enjoying the habit of reading, wherever they are in the Philippines or in the world.  We want to help children who are not so privileged get access to books and find joy in them.  We hope you can support us by purchasing our books.  Give them as gifts!  Tell your family and friends! 

(Available on: iBooks and Amazon)

Q: Any upcoming projects and/or events that people can look out for?

A: “There are two projects that we’re working on right now, one is by a Filipino author who lives in New Zealand, about the best friend that a kid could ever have and the other one is the second book in the Francesca series.  Both are being illustrated by Gel too.  Watch out for them!” 

Q: Where can people learn more about you? 

A: “You can find us on Instagram @philipandanapublishing, or on our FaceBook page “Philip & Ana.”  We also have a website, www.philipandana.com .”

Interview with the Illustrator: Gel Relova

Q: Where did the inspiration come when creating the illustrations for Francesca? 

A: “When I started working on this book, I researched traditional Filipino birthday parties here in the Philippines. I remembered some of the games that we played when I was young, the colorful piñata and toys inside small plastic bags (like yo-yo’s and jackstones!) which were strung on 4 by 4 wood called Pabitin. I tried capturing those fun memories and imagined how it would be for Francesca.”

Q: What other work have you illustrated?

A: “I have been illustrating for various Philippine companies and publishing houses for a few years now. They’re mostly for books, magazines, print ads, and other materials. I also collaborate with other illustrators for exhibits here in Manila. You can view some of them on our org’s website at ang-ink.org.”

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be an illustrator?

A: “My childhood consisted of Disney animated movies, cable TV cartoons and Japanese manga. As a kid, I was always trying to draw and copy them.  My sketchbook was filled with drawings of Ariel and Jasmine, Lisa Franks, and the whole sailor squad. When I became a teenager and I still had the same passion that I’ve had for drawing when I was little, I then decided that I wanted to create my own artworks for a living.”

Q: Where can people learn more about you? 

A: “You can see some of my works at fisheecalamari.carbonmade.com or you can follow me on Tumblr.”

Cel & Gel were chatting, talking and collaborating over the internet for almost two years before they met up in person. This photo was taken during that first meeting, a few months after all the illustrations for Francesca were completed.