cover image We Belong

We Belong

Cookie Hiponia Everman. Dial, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-593-11220-5

Filipino mythology beautifully intertwines a personal immigration story in this free verse novel. Half-Filipino, half-white Stella, nine, and her younger sister Luna request a bedtime story from their mother, Elsie Aguila. Elsie tells the Tagalog myth of Mayari, goddess of the moon, and her siblings, Apolaki and Tala—god and goddess of the sun and stars—who were raised on Earth until the death of their mother. There they learn their father is Bathala Maykapal, Great Creator God; they must leave Earth with only a few belongings to follow their father to Heaven, where they struggle to assimilate. Mirroring the myth, Elsie and her family are forced to leave their homeland during the violence of Ferdinand Marcos’s presidency, “tak[ing] only what [they] can carry” to the U.S. in a 50-pound suitcase. Deeply poignant, and at times involving trauma, the tales are relayed in blue and black type, picking up where the last leaves off in alternating chapters. Infusing the heart of Pinoy culture into a moving, accessible bedtime narrative, this “story of outsiders” will resonate with anyone who has felt estranged in the place they call home. Ages 10–up. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Co. (Mar.)