Zack Sterling

Book - 2023

"First-generation Filipino siblings, JJ and Althea, struggle to belong at school. JJ wants to fit in with the crowd, while Althea wants to be accepted as she is. But between the leftover Filipino food their mom packs for their lunches to having a last name that nobody can pronounce, any sense of belonging seems like a long shot. To make matters worse, they have to help their parents run the family food truck, dressing up as a dancing pig and passing out samples. Ugh! And their parents are always drawing parallels between their poor work ethic and lazy characters from Filipino folklore -- stories they've heard again and again. But when witches, ogres, and other creatures from those same stories appear in their town and threaten family, JJ and Althea realize that the myths their parents have always told them may be more real than they'd suspected. Can JJ and Althea embrace who they really are and save their family?" -- provided by publisher.

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Children's Room Show me where

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Location Call Number   Status
Bookmobile Children's jGRAPHIC NOVEL/Sterling Checked In
Children's Room jGRAPHIC NOVEL/Sterling Due Jul 27, 2024
Children's Room jGRAPHIC NOVEL/Sterling Checked In
Young adult fiction
Comics (Graphic works)
Graphic novels
Young adult works
Adventure fiction
Action and adventure comics
Domestic comics
Humorous comics
Fantasy comics
New York, NY : Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic 2023.
Main Author
Zack Sterling (author)
First edition
Physical Description
228 pages : chiefly color illustrations ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

With summer vacation approaching, Mom and Dad have already assigned jobs to prevent the kids from relentlessly playing video games (JJ) and streaming horror films (Althea). JJ will be the dancing pig welcoming customers while Althea offers free samples of the toothsome Filipino fare from the family's food truck. But first, the siblings must survive the final days of school: being "different" is difficult for JJ, who cares too much about what everyone thinks, and for Althea, who pretends being a loner is her choice. As if navigating social hierarchies weren't enough, Uncle Arvin suddenly arrives from the Philippines, whispering warnings of doom. Sterling presents a vibrant, nonstop adventure, infusing his electrifying full-color panels with mythic origins and onerous quests. What could have been just another adolescent coming-of-age gets dynamically enhanced with witches, portals, and newfound superpowers. Sterling's author's note insists this "is not an autobiography" and then admits, "but it kind of is. There is so much of me in this story and in these characters." He confesses he "wasted so much time and energy trying to be a 'regular' kid" but eventually realized being a mixed-race Filipino American "should be celebrated": "The stuff that makes you 'different' is the best stuff. I promise." Hand this empowering title to kids needing a boost of confidence.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Tween siblings team up to save their family when childhood tales from Filipino folklore come to life in this adventuresome graphic novel by Sterling (Punch Up!). Middle schoolers JJ and Althea Bulan crave acceptance; JJ fervently tries to fit in, especially when it comes to impressing his crush, while Althea harbors frustrations about how no one seems to appreciate her for who she is. Constantly having their last name mispronounced, enduring the dreaded "lunchbox moment" at school, and working at their family food truck--which involves JJ donning a pig costume and Althea handing out free samples--don't help their endeavors. Their immigrant mother's seemingly never-ending repertoire of lessons from Filipino folktales adds to the tweens' ire, until the folkloric figures suddenly appear and threaten their family. Mom reveals a long-held secret: their family has magical roots, and they must now work together to keep the powerful entities at bay. In this quickly paced adventure, Sterling crafts an animated look into one immigrant family's experience navigating fantastical and real-life challenges via brightly hued, cartoon panels and plenty of upbeat humor. An adobo recipe, author's note, and glossary conclude. Ages 8--12. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 4 Up--JJ and Althea can't forget their Filipino heritage, no matter how hard they try. There are constant reminders that they don't fit in as "regular" American kids, like when they have to help out at their family's food truck by handing out samples dressed up in a pig costume, or they have to listen to their mother's Filipino folklore stories AGAIN, or the other kids in school complain about the way their lunches smell. But when strange things start happening around them and they discover that both good and evil characters from their mother's stories really exist, JJ and Althea realize that everyone in their family is in danger. The challenge will be to see if they can do their jobs at The Beautiful Pig food truck while also saving their family, and even the world! This book features lots of colorful panels that sometimes jump out at diagonal angles, adding extra energy and drama to an already exciting story. The background colors and designs also change at certain moments, which lets readers know that something unusual is happening, as when the story switches from modern day into a folktale. VERDICT Have this on hand for readers who enjoy captivating adventures, food, and folklore!--Andrea Lipinski

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Two siblings are thrown headfirst into Filipino magic, mythology, and folklore. JJ and Althea Bulan, the children of Filipino immigrants, are trying to figure out where they fit in. Self-conscious JJ cares how others see him, while Althea won't change for anyone and wants people to accept that. At school, people mispronounce their surname, JJ gets bullied for being unathletic, and kids make racist comments about Althea's Filipino lunches. Fitting in is even harder when they spend their free time helping out at the Beautiful Pig, the family food truck--JJ has to dress up in a pig costume while Althea hands out samples. Then Tito Arvin, their dad's flaky younger brother, unexpectedly shows up with a warning that the family is in danger. After sharing the same creepy nightmare and being attacked by witches and a monster, the siblings uncover secrets their parents have been hiding: Their mother has magical powers, and the witches who raised her are pursuing them. To save the day, JJ and Althea must learn to embrace who they are and the culture they come from. Full of Filipino folklore and mythology, this humorous coming-of-age graphic novel is an exciting combination of fantasy and relatable middle school issues. The fun, heartwarming story with its bright, expressive illustrations celebrates family, food, and culture. Tagalog words are woven into the dialogue, with pronunciations and definitions provided in the footnotes. An engaging tribute to family, food, and finding yourself. (recipe, author's note, glossary) (Graphic adventure. 8-12) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.