PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Two new children's books are hitting the shelves, hoping to fill gaps in the marketplace and teach kids to embrace everyone's diverse cultures.
One book is written by a sportscaster on the national stage. It's a very American story about a young boy feeling conflicted before his birthday. The other is written by a local mom trying to preserve the stories of her ancestors in the Philippines.
Jo Tiongson-Perez said when her daughter asked her to tell her a story from the Philippines, she got an idea.
"We realized that we barely knew by heart stories from the Philippines. And we almost knew zero Indigenous stories from the Philippines," she said.
And that sparked another question.
"Could we widen the storytelling space to include these kinds of narratives that can instill pride?" she asked.
The answer was yes and set in motion "Once upon the Sun and Sea: Indigenous Stories and Folk Tales from the Philippines."
"It is really designed for any explorer who wants to be opened up to wondrous worlds filled with curious creatures, magical powers, Gods, Goddesses," she said. "But what makes this book different from many other children's books is that it includes English translations from direct oral storytelling's of one of the oldest tribes in the Philippines, Tagbanua."
It is an effort by Tiongson-Perez, who works at the Penn Museum, and her co-author Denise Orosa to pass on their heritage and to counter historical characterizations of indigenous Philippine culture as primitive, savage, or strange.
The book came to life, in large part, thanks to support from the University of Pennsylvania.
"One of my favorite stories is a story called 'Aponibolinayen and the Sun'," she said.
It's about a girl carried up by a vine to an enchanting new place.
"In the beginning, it bears a striking resemblance to Jack in the Beanstalk. But the story is really about a girl who takes agency in exploring this new world who basically negotiates her own sense of power and ownership with another deity, the right to coexist peacefully in this space," said Tiongson-Perez.
From Filipino folk tales to the modern story of Mikey, an American boy of Chinese and Italian descent facing a dilemma before his birthday party.
"His mom says, 'Hey, you're about to turn four, do you want Chinese food or Italian food?," said author and studio host for the NFL Network, Mike Yam.
Mikey feels pulled in two different directions until he speaks to a friend.
"He talks to his friend Sophia, who says, Mike, you're both Chinese and Italian, you can have both. So he has this idea. And it clicks in his head that he's going to have fried rice and marinara for his birthday."
So came the book "Fried Rice and Marinara."
"I wanted kids to be able to see themselves reflected in a story because it's limited right now," said Yam.
It was born out of Yam's own experience and lessons learned from his own parents.
"I used to say, well, I'm half Chinese, half Italian. And now I've started to change some of the language and just say, No, I'm Chinese and Italian because they never made me feel half of anything," he said. "We don't have to choose, right? We can just proudly be both."
Which he says is 100% American.
"And that was a big reason why I wanted to write this book," he added.
To purchase "Once upon the Sun and Sea: Indigenous Stories and Folk Tales from the Philippines" visit Onceuponthesunandsea.com.
To watch the video book for "Fried Rice and Marinara" visit YouTube.com