A Day in the Market (Araw sa Palengke) by May Tobias-Papa is about a little girl’s very first trip to the market with her mother. The market is an exciting cultural adventure as she meets lively vendors, see a variety of foods and items and finds a special item that she wants to buy. To find out what this special thing is, you can download this app for free and read the storybook. For an additional $2.99, you get access to the book in two other languages, a sorting game and interactive scenes that bring the book to life.
After reading this book, I was interested in the origin of the story and how the story was created from a printed book to an app.
I am excited to share this interview with May Tobias-Papa, author of this wonderful book and interactive app, A Day in the Market.
May Tobias-Papa started writing and illustrating children’s books at age nine, but it wasn’t till she was a grown-up who’d retired from advertising work did anybody else really get to read her books. Drawing or writing, she draws inspiration from real childhood experiences, and this is probably why, she thinks, kids could relate to the characters and events in her books. She lives and works in the suburbs of Metro Manila, with her husband and son.
I had originally written the story in Filipino as a printed book. It was published as a bilingual book like most of the other books in my publisher’s (Adarna Books) publication list. Adarna Books wanted to expand into digital media, to reach out to our audience (Filipino kids all over the world) whom we could not otherwise reach with the printed book. Another Philippine publisher of children’s books had already gone digital, so Adarna Books probably thought it was about time.. I believe I was the first one among their writers with whom they broached the idea, perhaps because they saw the visual and interactive potential in my book. They had also mentioned my other book that was out-of-print during the time (Estrellita). In our first meeting I hardly even knew how different a book app was from an e-book, even much less about what made a good digital book app. For a very first book app for Adarna, it did so well, which meant that it appealed to an audience much bigger than what we had seen for it–a global, multicultural audience. It has won a juror’s award in Japan at the 4th Digital Ehon Awards, a starred review from Kirkus, and an award for Best App for Teaching and Learning from the American Association of School Librarians.
2. What inspired you to write the children’s book, A Day in the Market?
A Day in the Market is actually biographical. It is inspired by my very first trip to a wet market (“palengke” in Filipino) when I was just three years old. My mom decided to take me along with her to the market because she decided not to burden the nanny (a “yaya” in Filipino) who had her hands full with my baby sister. Mother bought me my own little “bayong” (a sturdy, reusable native bag woven from palm leaves) so she and I each carried our own bayongs. It was a story my mom always fondly recalled to me while I was growing up and I’d go with her to the market, so I never forgot it. (It was a “Mom, you’ve already told me that story a million times!” kind of story. So you can just imagine how very smug my mother was when the book became a bestseller and it started winning local awards.) The book was actually commissioned. My publisher, Ms Ani Almario had wanted me to write a book about a child’s first trip to the market. It just so happened that I already had a story. The book practically wrote itself. A lot of Filipino parents and children themselves told me later that the story resonated with them, and they related with the mother and child in the story.
My publisher and I never really talked about our objectives for the book and the book app. My publisher’s creative brief was for just a story about a child’s first trip to the market. Later, I would realize that they had intended it to be a book teaching kids about nouns–but they never told me that, maybe because they did not want to limit me in my writing.
In writing the story, I focused on the child’s experience using the five senses–sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. I think it naturally became about the five senses, because I had to recall my own experience as a three-year-old going to the market for the first time–or at least make a sensible and credible reconstruction of it.
4. Are you planning on making more apps in the future?
I am open to making more book apps. Now that I am more knowledgeable with book apps than when we first came out with A Day in the Market, I am realizing that book apps totally require a different kind of writing. Writing for book apps, for me, resembles more closely the process of writing for film or tv than writing for a printed book because it is more visual. The emergence of book apps has necessitated the evolution of writing. Not all printed books translate nicely into book apps without being rewritten somehow.