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My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva

“If you see the Butterfly, somebody you know will die.  Or has already died. My dad wasn’t clear. He just said if the Butterfly lands on something of yours, you should expect Death to come knocking at your door.”

Whew! That opening immediately sent shivers down my spine when I first sat down to read My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva. Set in the Philippines, Villanueva brings to the forefront the significance of superstitions in the culture. Superstitions are deeply rooted and can greatly impact actions and reactions to situations in life. In this middle school contemporary novel, Villanueva embeds the superstition of the large black butterfly.

This chapter book is a tale of ten-year-old Sab (Sabrina) and her quest to reunite her broken family for her upcoming eleventh birthday.  Her older sister, Ate Nadine, has not spoken to her father in years and Sab does not know why. Her motivation to both discover and mend the roots of the family rift is heightened when she sees the giant black butterfly, which her father has taught her to be a death omen. Seeing it, she knows she has limited time to act upon her only wish to celebrate her birthday at her Lola’s resort with all of her family there.

Throughout the story, we follow Sab’s journey to uncover more about her Ate Nadine and why she dislikes her father so much. We watch each layer of truth slowly unfold and the emotional impact on each member of the family.

Along the way, we also get a taste of the culture of the Philippines, family dynamics, societal issues, and also the effects of our behaviors and mistakes on our family’s relationships.

My Favorite Quotes:

There were several quotes in the book that caught my attention and provided opportunities for reflection. Here are some I would like to share with you:

    1. “Dad described the Butterfly as being black as a starless night sky. It’s a giant compared to your garden-variety moth — probably even bigger than my hand. Its dark, mysterious vibe is beautiful and sinister at the same time.”

I think that although she is describing a believed “death omen” the description is just so captivating and mysterious — as black as a “starless night sky” and “beautiful and sinister at the same time.”

I love this quote because it is a good life lesson — to not just sit around waiting for death. To enjoy each day of your life and take action to enjoy your life the best way possible. Although Sab sees the black butterfly, her best friend, Pepper, encourages her to not waste time feeling bad for herself, but to change her mentality to spend her supposed “last days” fulfilling her wishes.

“Maybe it’s because she grew up in the United States, but Pepper would never understand why superstitions aren’t just superstitions. When your dad believes in it, and his own mom believes in it — it’s probably true.”

This statement displays the contrast between Filipinos and those who were raised in the U.S. Pepper, Sab’s friend, grew up in the U.S., where superstitions are not as strongly immersed in the culture. Pepper doesn’t fully understand the level of seriousness Sab feels from the superstition of the black butterfly. It reminds me of how my Titas and Titos from the Philippines bring up many more superstitions in the conversation than my family who was born and raised here in the U.S. I always wondered why they would see or hear certain things happening in the Philippines, but not here in the U.S. So, reading this part of the book was very relatable to my own relatives and their beliefs.


I appreciate how Gail Villanueva brings in real societal beliefs regarding skin color and definitions of “beauty.” It is a tough pill to swallow and a “truth” that is hard to admit, but to this day, there are people who still believe that — “white is beautiful, brown is not.” There are many who strongly disagree. But there still remains the belief in this throughout our populations and still communicated (whether overtly or subconsciously).

Age Appropriateness & Topics

My Fate According to the Butterfly is intended for ages 8 through 12 (grades 3 through 7). Although this is the target age range, it is recommended to read it prior to having your child or student read it to be fully prepared and comfortable with the discussed topics in the book. It is an honest storyline, bringing up real-life issues, which I really appreciate. There are several topics we tend to hide from our children due to fear or uncomfortableness, but it is good to bring those real topics to the forefront through age-appropriate conversations. The story shows a torn family due to a “mysterious” reason which Sab later uncovers.

The storyline includes relationship dynamics such as a separated marriage, a homosexual relationship, and brings up substance abuse.

While it does include these topics, Gail Villanueva weaves them in very respectfully while maintaining the depth of emotions that can be involved. It brings up true to life issues between family. It teaches valuable lessons about communication, appreciation for family, living your life without regrets, the importance of having faith in others, and the process of forgiveness.

There are some challenging truths and lots of big feelings for Sab and her Ate Nadine. The author takes the reader through the emotional struggle of the characters and brings it to a beautiful resolve in the end. You will have to read it to find out how it all comes together.

My Fate According to the Butterfly will be launching on July 30, 2019! Check out the book’s website to learn more about it and how to pre-order/purchase it.

Interview with the Author:

I wanted to learn more about the author and her inspiration behind the book, so I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to ask Gail Villanueva a few questions to share with you:

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

A: I was writing short stories and making comic strips the moment I learned to read at age seven. I had a hard time learning how to. With my grandmother’s help, I eventually learned how to associate words with images.

But it was when I read To Kill A Mockingbird in fifth grade that I decided I wanted to become an author. I reached the end of the book with this question: Why did it have to be a white girl who tells the story of a black man? Like, couldn’t a black author tell their own story?

It was at that moment I resolved to one day write a book with a Filipino main character. A Filipino book by a Filipino writer. My book may never become a classic like Harper Lee’s (anyone can dream though haha), but I would write about Filipinos because I’m Filipino.

Q: What are your favorite genres to read? What are your favorite genres to write?

A: I read just about anything middle grade—except for horror. I scare easily, so reading horror books will give me nightmares for days. I really love writing real-life stories with a touch of magic in present-day settings and have dabbled with contemporary and historical fantasy.

Q: What inspired you to write My Fate According to the Butterfly?

A: I wrote My Fate According to the Butterfly when I was receiving rejection upon rejection for my first (and currently-shelved) book. It was inspired by my relationship with my own younger sister, Joyce. She’s very like Sab in many ways.

Q: Do you relate to any of the characters in My Fate According to the Butterfly?

A: I relate to Nadine, being an older sister myself. I was also part of my school paper in college. But I’m similar to Pepper the most. She may be a white American, but her personality is kind of like mine. I love strategizing, coming up with solutions to problems, and playing puzzle games. I don’t like kwek-kwek as much as Pepper does, but I do have the tendency to become a bit uncomfortable when family and friends go all feel-y on me.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from My Fate According to the Butterfly?

A: I wrote My Fate According to the Butterfly with Filipino representation in mind. I grew up not seeing myself in the books I read and I wanted to change that. But I would love for this book to become a mirror to anyone (Filipino or not) who needed one. Because seeing yourself represented is very empowering. It tells you, the reader, that you can be anything you want to be. At the same time, I would love for my book to become a window to our culture and encourage empathy in kids—especially privileged kids—since I strongly believe that empathy helps us become better human beings.

Bio:

Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Her debut novel, My Fate According to the Butterfly, is coming from Scholastic Press on July 30, 2019

Book links:

Website — https://butterflynovel.com

Amazon —https://www.amazon.com/Fate-According-Butterfly-Gail-Villanueva/dp/133831050X

Goodreads —https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39884772-my-fate-according-to-the-butterfly

Author links:

Author website — https://gaildvillanueva.com/

Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392229.Gail_D_Villanueva

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/gaildvillanueva/

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/gaildvillanueva/

Twitter — https://twitter.com/gaildvillanueva

Pinterest — https://www.pinterest.com/gaildvillanueva/

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.