Happy Filipino American History Month! In 2009, the US Congress declared October as National Filipino American History Month. This is to commemorate the first recorded presence of Filipinos on the continental United States on October 18, 1587. 

I was so excited to compile this Colorful Pages Booklist for Filipino American History Month. Unfortunately, there are not that many books surrounding the Filipino American experience and history — please encourage your Filipino American writer friends to write more because we need more #OwnVoices books for our kiddos! However, I was able to research, read, and list some really amazing books for all ages to help you, your students, your kiddos, and your family celebrate and honor Filipino American History Month. 

I chose books that provide windows and mirrors into Filipino and Filipino-American experiences, history, and culture. In this list, there are 5 picture books, 3 middle grade books, and 2 young adult books. Pick a couple to get started and let’s uplift Filipino stories!

Picture Books

Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals, by Liana Romulo

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 5-10 years 

In this picture book, Liana Romulo shares about different Filipino celebrations. For each celebration, the pages detail the history and cultural elements behind it through words, labels, and watercolor illustrations. Filipino Celebrations covers Mga Kaarawan—Birthdays, Semana Santa—Holy Week, Mga Barrio Fiestas—Town Festivals, Mga Binyag—Baptisms, and Araw ng Kalayaan—Independence Day and more! This is great for you to teach about Filipino celebrations. Consider using it as a shared reading text by projecting it onto the screen to do research together or assigning one celebration to each kiddo to read up on! 

Filipino Friends, by Liana Romulo

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 5-10 years 

Liana Romulo wrote this picture book, too! In Filipino Friends, Sam, a Filipino-American boy, visits the Philippines for the first time. The book shares the differences and similarities between Sam’s experiences in America and what he sees and learns about in the Philippines. The book is partially bilingual because it is full of labels in English and Tagalog. I wish we had more books like this! I love these culture and country comparisons books because it helps children look beyond their current scope while also seeing mirrors to build empathy and empowerment!

Cora Cooks Pancit, by Dorina Lazo Gilmore

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 6-9 years 

Cora Cooks Pancit is a beautifully illustrated book that will transport you into Cora’s family kitchen. Cora, a young Filipino girl, is always jealous that her older brothers and sisters get to help in the kitchen. Finally, when her siblings go to the mall, Cora gets to be her mom’s assistant chef AND she gets to pick the Filipino dish they will make. Cora and her mom make pancit while Cora also learns more and more about her Filipino heritage and family history. 

Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong, by Dawn B. Mabalon, PhD and Gayle Romasanta

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

Journey for Justice is a picture book that tells the true story of Larry Itliong, a Filipino American labor leader. Larry Itliong was co-founder of the United Farm Workers and fought for the rights of farmworkers. According to the publisher, this is the first nonfiction illustrated Filipino American picture book!

All About the Philippines: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids, by Gidget Roceles Jimenez 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 8-12 years

This picture book really is ALL about the Philippines! It is packed full of facts about Filipino history and culture. All About the Philippines is centered around Ari, Jaime, and Mary, three cousins, who show the readers around their nation. There is so much information in this book that I would consider reading a section at a time or leaving it out for kids to explore on their own, too!

Early Chapter/Middle Grade Books

Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration

Age Range: 8-12 years

While Erin Entrada Kelly’s book is not specifically about Filipino American History, it definitely deserves to be on our list, especially since it intertwines Filipino folktales into a modern tale about bravery! Hello, Universe is a middle grade book that balances alternating between four narratives. The characters come together as Virgil Salinas and his guinea pig get trapped in a well because of a prank. Kaori, Gen, and Valencia go on a mission to find Virgil and all of the characters learn what it means to find their inner bayani, or hero

Everlasting Nora, by Marie Miranda Cruz

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 9-11 years

Everlasting Nora is definitely an empathy builder. Marie Miranda Cruz writes this heart-wrenching middle grade novel that will be a window (and potentially a mirror in some cases) for children. The book is about Nora, a twelve-year-old girl who lives in Manila’s North Cemetery, a real-life shanty town in the Philippines, with her mother. But one day, Nora is left alone and goes off in search of her mother. Along the way, Nora learns so much about her community, hope, and herself. 

The House That Lou Built, by Mae Respicio

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 8-12 years

There is so much to love about this book, but the best part is how Mae Respicio weaves in elements of the Filipino culture and portrays a Filipino family! In The House That Lou Built, the main character, Lou, wants to build her own tiny house that is all her own and where she can escape her loving Filipino family. This book encourages girls to pursue STEM activities, such as architecture and building, while also detailing a young girl’s journey through grieving someone who died before she was born. 

Young Adult Books

Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults, collected and edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: depends on the story, but mostly Exploration and Conversation

Age Range: 12-17 years

This is a great short story collection with stories written by Filipino American writers. Each story explores the complexities of growing up and the Filipino and/or Filipino-American identity. The stories are collected under five themes: Family, Angst, Friendship, Love, and Home. There are author introductions and other articles of information to help bring more life, cultural, and historical layers to the stories. This book makes me wish I was teaching High School English Language Arts, so that I could read this text with students!

Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12-17 years

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay follows Jay Reguero, a half-Filipino and half-White teenage boy, who travels to the Philippines in order to find out the real story behind his cousin’s death. This young adult novel tackles family, trauma, identity, faith, and Philippines President Duerte’s War on Drugs. The author carefully builds a multi-layered conflict that readers will not be able to put down. Plus, look at that beautiful cover art! 

You can also check out this NPR article about the author and his book: https://www.npr.org/2019/06/17/727649223/patron-saints-of-nothing-is-a-book-for-the-hyphenated

2 thoughts on “Filipino American History Month: 2020 Book List

  1. Thank you for sharing! I teach 3rd grade and have been looking for age-appropriate resources to use with my students.

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