ni Xi Zuq
With its atypical format—size smaller than the usual storybook published here in the Philippines and a cover designed with a box-flap that hides and reveals a girl—The Little Girl in a Box is a unique addition to books that open the eyes of most Filipino children to the reality that some children have to face. The book is written by Felinda V. Bagas, illustrated by Aldy C. Aguirre, and published by Adarna House (2013).
Bagas is the current president of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING). This is her first children’s book though she has written plays, musicals, and television scripts for children. She was awarded the Honorable Mention for the Salanga Writer’s Prize by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People last year.
Read an exclusive interview with Dang Bagas here on Kalatas. [LINK]
The Little Girl in a Box is the story of an orphaned girl who lived in an ordinary cardboard box. The book follows her search for a place where she can be cared for and loved. Through poetic lines, the narrative literally and literarily flows, creating an emotional mood of loneliness and desire to find love and care. The mood was also heightened by deliberate omission of dialogues, especially from the girl. It mirrors her silent lonely life inside the box.
As she finds her new home, the narrative explores some issues about orphaned and adopted children. For example, foster parents who are too strict could make adopted children feel helpless and suffocated. Some foster families also provide inadequate support to the adopted, especially when these families already have many children of their own to care for.
Besides its literary merit, The Little Girl in a Box is an important work because it gives space to the experiences of orphaned and adopted children, a topic rarely discussed in Philippine children’s books. It opens children (and adults as well) to the reality of these kids. But more importantly, this book is for the orphaned and adopted as it provides them with a story that can serve as their anchor.
2010 PBBY-Alcala Prize winner Aguirre, who is a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang InK), complemented the narrative by illustrating with a dreamy feel. He wisely used colors and lines to emphasize the mood of the story or add to it. The colors, for instance, are somber to mirror the mood but not too dark to prevent the book from being too sad.
His lines were also able to capture the life of the little girl. For instance, he chose a bird’s eye view when the girl is inside a room, as if the readers were peeking inside a box. In these pages, the boxlike feel of corners and straight lines reverberate to the readers. He frees lines, on the other hand, when the girl journeys to different places and especially when she was freed from her life in the box and found a new home.
Lastly, Aguirre heightened the little girl’s loneliness and sense of oddness when he opted to draw the other children that the little girl met as nonhuman characters. In the end, the little girl meets real children when she finds the perfect place for her. In the end, she was happily playing with them. In the end, there is hope.
Truly, this book is special.
Xi Zuq is a member of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING) and Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA). Visit his blog xizuqsnook.blog.com or Facebook page Xi Zuq’s Nook for more book reviews on children’s literature.