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We Belong

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A novel-in-verse, that weaves an immigrant story together with Philippine mythology. Stella and Luna know that their mama, Elsie, came from the Philippines when she was a child, but they don’t know much else. So one night they ask her to tell them her story. As they get ready for bed, their mama spins two tales: that of her youth as a strong-willed middle child and refugee; A novel-in-verse, that weaves an immigrant story together with Philippine mythology. Stella and Luna know that their mama, Elsie, came from the Philippines when she was a child, but they don’t know much else. So one night they ask her to tell them her story. As they get ready for bed, their mama spins two tales: that of her youth as a strong-willed middle child and refugee; and that of the young life of Mayari, the mythical daughter of a god.


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A novel-in-verse, that weaves an immigrant story together with Philippine mythology. Stella and Luna know that their mama, Elsie, came from the Philippines when she was a child, but they don’t know much else. So one night they ask her to tell them her story. As they get ready for bed, their mama spins two tales: that of her youth as a strong-willed middle child and refugee; A novel-in-verse, that weaves an immigrant story together with Philippine mythology. Stella and Luna know that their mama, Elsie, came from the Philippines when she was a child, but they don’t know much else. So one night they ask her to tell them her story. As they get ready for bed, their mama spins two tales: that of her youth as a strong-willed middle child and refugee; and that of the young life of Mayari, the mythical daughter of a god.

30 review for We Belong

  1. 5 out of 5

    Reading_ Tam_ Ishly

    "But as in all faerie tales, we would learn all magic comes with a price." A story in verse about sisters and immigrants. I love the verses. I love the characters. Yet I feel there could have been more to the story. I like the illustrations. They are white-blue and so soothing. This is a book which you can read with your child together. It's beautiful to read aloud. This book won't take up your time. You can read it in one sitting. I would have appreciated the book more if the words in between were tr "But as in all faerie tales, we would learn all magic comes with a price." A story in verse about sisters and immigrants. I love the verses. I love the characters. Yet I feel there could have been more to the story. I like the illustrations. They are white-blue and so soothing. This is a book which you can read with your child together. It's beautiful to read aloud. This book won't take up your time. You can read it in one sitting. I would have appreciated the book more if the words in between were translated alongside. The story has parts which deals with grief and the struggles of immigrants. But then it is all about hope and new beginnings.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anniek

    This book just oozes love, it's beautiful. It's told in different timelines and storylines, and ends up being so much more than the sum of its part. The book is about a mother telling her daughters bedtime stories and that feeling, the love, the safety, the comfort, was really conveyed in the book. Being Filipino, she's interweaving Tagalog mythology and her personal experiences as an immigrant in her stories to her daughters, and it was just beautifully done. This book just oozes love, it's beautiful. It's told in different timelines and storylines, and ends up being so much more than the sum of its part. The book is about a mother telling her daughters bedtime stories and that feeling, the love, the safety, the comfort, was really conveyed in the book. Being Filipino, she's interweaving Tagalog mythology and her personal experiences as an immigrant in her stories to her daughters, and it was just beautifully done.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    This was such a cool little book!! What a beautiful blend of Filipino folklore and commentary on the Filipino migrant experience! I love the way myth and reality flow into and reflect one another in this book. The prose is lovely and so true to Filipino culture, norms, and society throughout the diaspora. I felt at home with much of what is portrayed here. I see my mother, my titas, my Lola, and myself among the characters. The untranslated songs were little treasures dispersed throughout the st This was such a cool little book!! What a beautiful blend of Filipino folklore and commentary on the Filipino migrant experience! I love the way myth and reality flow into and reflect one another in this book. The prose is lovely and so true to Filipino culture, norms, and society throughout the diaspora. I felt at home with much of what is portrayed here. I see my mother, my titas, my Lola, and myself among the characters. The untranslated songs were little treasures dispersed throughout the story. Loved this concept so much and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audiobook!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hâf

    I love novels told through verse so I knew I would enjoy We Belong. This book tells two tales, the story of a young girl who left the Philippines as a child with her family and the story of a mythical daughter of a god. I think the poor formatting of the earc I read led to some confusion as to which story was being told at times as there wasn't always a clear divide but once I was more familiar with the characters I was able to work this out myself and both stories were beautiful. I loved learni I love novels told through verse so I knew I would enjoy We Belong. This book tells two tales, the story of a young girl who left the Philippines as a child with her family and the story of a mythical daughter of a god. I think the poor formatting of the earc I read led to some confusion as to which story was being told at times as there wasn't always a clear divide but once I was more familiar with the characters I was able to work this out myself and both stories were beautiful. I loved learning about Philippine mythology alongside Elsie's daughter as she interweaved the story with tales from her own childhood. A beautiful novel about family, love and strength.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Love the Filipino culture and mythology, and the use of verse is very interesting. I am always a big fan of colored ink, so I loved the use of blue ink for some chapters. This just seemed a tiny bit young for my students, but I will watch this author with interest.

  6. 4 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    Excuse me while I GUSH about this absolutely BEAUTIFUL in every way, middle grade novel in verse! I can’t believe this is Cookie Hiponia Everman’s debut - her words are so lyrical and moving. At the end of the book she says “poetry is music, poems are songs” and her words are definitely all of that and more. This Philippine immigrant story is told by a mother, Elsie to her two daughters, Stella and Luna and is both about her own journey leaving the Philippines and coming to America, as well as a Excuse me while I GUSH about this absolutely BEAUTIFUL in every way, middle grade novel in verse! I can’t believe this is Cookie Hiponia Everman’s debut - her words are so lyrical and moving. At the end of the book she says “poetry is music, poems are songs” and her words are definitely all of that and more. This Philippine immigrant story is told by a mother, Elsie to her two daughters, Stella and Luna and is both about her own journey leaving the Philippines and coming to America, as well as a retelling of a traditional myth about the sun and the moon. It is a story of motherhood, sisterhood and the struggles to belong in a country that does not want you. This was AMAZING on audio as Cookie narrates the book herself and includes some traditional Philippine nursery/folk songs at the end. A heartfelt immigrant story about belonging for fans of Other words for home. I will be shocked if this one doesn’t win some big awards in Children’s literature. Favourite lines: “They say having a child is like having your heart walk outside your body. They also say your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. I was four years old when my mother teaches me this, when she shows me that your heart is not only the size but the shape of a fist and her heart beats outside of her body.” “Did we really want to belong to a country that did not know or want us as we are, did not consider the weight of our hearts, did not want to see the color of our skin, did not find beauty in the shape of our eyes, did not understand the sound of our songs? How could the points between acceptance and belonging be so far away from each other?” “I learned that even when I think I belong, someone else can decide I do not. Someone else makes the rules of belonging. Someone else certain of their authority can tell me ‘go back to where you came from.’ How can I go back to where I came from when even in my mother’s arms I am unsafe? How can I go back to where I came from when even in my Motherland I am unsafe?”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brianna Johnston

    I received this book as a free digital ARC from the SLJ Middle Grade Magic virtual conference. All of the thoughts expressed in this review are honest and my own. The first half of this book was very confusing to me. The story is written in verse and is told from the perspective of a mother as she tells stories to her children at bedtime. The stories are a mash-up of Philippine mythology and her own life story. To me, the stories of Philippine mythology and the mother's story of how she immigrate I received this book as a free digital ARC from the SLJ Middle Grade Magic virtual conference. All of the thoughts expressed in this review are honest and my own. The first half of this book was very confusing to me. The story is written in verse and is told from the perspective of a mother as she tells stories to her children at bedtime. The stories are a mash-up of Philippine mythology and her own life story. To me, the stories of Philippine mythology and the mother's story of how she immigrated to America as a child were both compelling stories separately, but when mixed together became confusing to the point that the story felt less meaningful to me. Also as someone with no experience with Philippine culture, it was difficult for me to understand and relate to the many references and words given in Tagalong. There is a glossary in the back matter of the book, but with so many terms I would constantly be flipping to the back to find meaning for the words. I love reading and learning about other cultures, but typically the books I read that mix English with other languages provide meaning for the new words within the text rather than just having a separate glossary. From the perspective of a school librarian, I could see this book having a profound impact on my Philippine students who can relate more closely to the mythology and language. I would love to share this with them to see if they can provide more insight and teach me something. I love when I can learn from my students and this would be a great opportunity to do so.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kaine

    I had the privilege of reading an eARC of WE BELONG, and it is truly beautiful, moving, and delightful. I tend to read and enjoy books for three reasons-- to learn from the characters, to get swept away by the action of a story, or to revel in beautiful language. This book wraps all three together inextricably, all the hallmarks of a new classic. Hiponia Everman masterfully pulls from her own experiences to weave together an intensely personal story alongside a mythic tale. The effortless mixing I had the privilege of reading an eARC of WE BELONG, and it is truly beautiful, moving, and delightful. I tend to read and enjoy books for three reasons-- to learn from the characters, to get swept away by the action of a story, or to revel in beautiful language. This book wraps all three together inextricably, all the hallmarks of a new classic. Hiponia Everman masterfully pulls from her own experiences to weave together an intensely personal story alongside a mythic tale. The effortless mixing of Tagalog with English felt like an intimate gift from the author. A glossary is included in the back for readers who, like me, do not share the author's cultural background. However, I didn't see that until I finished, and during my first read, it felt like the context always gave enough for me to understand the feeling of what was being expressed and I stayed wrapped up in the story. A second more careful read, with the glossary as a resource, enriched the experience even more. The form of the book is in verse. I don't read as much poetry as prose but I found the language here lyrical, accessible, and flowing. I couldn't put it down. There are typographical differences between the mythic and personal poems and the characters' voices, helpful in guiding the reader easily from one line to the next. I look forward to receiving my pre-order of the hardback in March. This is a book I will return to many times.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brandi Thompson

    I received an eARC from NetGalley for review. This is a middle grade book with a focus on Filipino myths tied into a modern family, with their story of immigration and growing up with their Filipino roots. It has a very poetic, fantasy type feel to it. I really enjoyed this book. The very poetic writing format was unexpected at first, but once I got rolling with it, I thought it was really well done. At times, I did get slightly confused as they went from storyline to storyline, but that MIGHT be I received an eARC from NetGalley for review. This is a middle grade book with a focus on Filipino myths tied into a modern family, with their story of immigration and growing up with their Filipino roots. It has a very poetic, fantasy type feel to it. I really enjoyed this book. The very poetic writing format was unexpected at first, but once I got rolling with it, I thought it was really well done. At times, I did get slightly confused as they went from storyline to storyline, but that MIGHT be partly due to formatting of the eARC. There is a strong family storyline here, turning the myth of the Sun, Moon and Star gods into a family connection over several generations, ending with a Filipina immigrant telling the story to her own daughters. It references different parenting techniques, primarily focused on the maternal side, and you could say there is an element of healing from a mother who wasn't what you wanted her to be. The ending was absolutely beautiful and soul stirring, and this would be a wonderful book to read with daughters in particular, but it's not overly 'gendered' either. There is a great glossary at the end of the book that includes pronunciation of the Tagalong words as well. I really enjoyed that, so I could better understand and learn more about the language and culture featured in the book. This is a very quick read, but I think it's worth sharing over a large range of ages, because of the representation involved.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I think it must be my life's work to reflect love. I know who I am and where I have to go. Did we really want to belong to a country that did not know or want us as we are, did not consider the weight of our hearts, did not want to see the color of our skin, did not find beauty in the shape of our eyes, and did not understand the sound of our songs? How could the points between acceptance and belonging be so far from each other? I feel like I lost my names during the journey between countries, I fe I think it must be my life's work to reflect love. I know who I am and where I have to go. Did we really want to belong to a country that did not know or want us as we are, did not consider the weight of our hearts, did not want to see the color of our skin, did not find beauty in the shape of our eyes, and did not understand the sound of our songs? How could the points between acceptance and belonging be so far from each other? I feel like I lost my names during the journey between countries, I feel like I lost my voice in the ocean between continents. Say the pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. Then the judge tells us we must renounce all our other allegiances. Now you are not Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Indian. Not Italian, Irish, Scottish, or German. Now you are all just American. If you can’t go home again, then you must take home with you wherever you go.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    This is the first time I've read an e-ARC via NetGalley, so my review is based on that copy. A mostly-sweet (with some bitter moments) series of bedtime stories that a mother tells to her daughters, drawn both from her own growing up experiences and from Pilipino (I learned from this book that this is becoming a preferred transliteration for that culture/nationality) mythology. The story is presented in 3 threads: the frame of the mom talking to her daughters, the mythology, and the mom's reminisc This is the first time I've read an e-ARC via NetGalley, so my review is based on that copy. A mostly-sweet (with some bitter moments) series of bedtime stories that a mother tells to her daughters, drawn both from her own growing up experiences and from Pilipino (I learned from this book that this is becoming a preferred transliteration for that culture/nationality) mythology. The story is presented in 3 threads: the frame of the mom talking to her daughters, the mythology, and the mom's reminiscences. I had a little trouble following which of the "realistic" segments fit with which thread, but some of that could be due to not-completely-finished formatting. I did find the glossary and translation of songs at the end to be VERY helpful, and I enjoyed the window into Pilipino culture.

  12. 5 out of 5

    AnneMarie

    3.5 First and foremost, I recommend this book. I am torn about how to write this review but want to provide guidance for other readers who are considering this book. I enjoyed this book. I learned a lot from this book about Filipino culture, food, mythology, and the Filipino language of Tagalog. I also really enjoyed the illustrations and how the color of the font help guide the reader as to whether it was the myth or real life. This story lacks the Disney sheen that has been given to many folks 3.5 First and foremost, I recommend this book. I am torn about how to write this review but want to provide guidance for other readers who are considering this book. I enjoyed this book. I learned a lot from this book about Filipino culture, food, mythology, and the Filipino language of Tagalog. I also really enjoyed the illustrations and how the color of the font help guide the reader as to whether it was the myth or real life. This story lacks the Disney sheen that has been given to many folks, myths, and fairytales. This book is wonderful and authentic because of this. (Don’t get me wrong. I love Disney!) The first third of the book was really hard to read because of its intensity and maltreatment of children. Once passed that, the book was much more enjoyable and lighter without being inauthentic and without detracting from the heart of the story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Candice

    This beautiful novel told in verse weaves together two tales: one of a young girl who left the Philippines with her family and the other the myths of her home. I loved the two stories, but the eformat I think at times made it difficult to understand which story I was reading. Sometimes parts of pictures were on one page and the stories seemed jumbled into one another. However, I love that the mother is telling her daughter stories at bedtime, especially when she weaves in the myths from their cu This beautiful novel told in verse weaves together two tales: one of a young girl who left the Philippines with her family and the other the myths of her home. I loved the two stories, but the eformat I think at times made it difficult to understand which story I was reading. Sometimes parts of pictures were on one page and the stories seemed jumbled into one another. However, I love that the mother is telling her daughter stories at bedtime, especially when she weaves in the myths from their culture and personal experiences traveling away from the Philippines with her family. I just feel as if this novel is much more than originally meets the eye. It's absolutely a beautiful story. I'll be purchasing a copy once it officially comes out. Thank you to the publisher for an ARC via Middle Grade Magic Conference.

  14. 5 out of 5

    The Keepers of the Books

    Half-Filipino, half-white, Stella and Luna request a bedtime story from their mom, Elsie. Their mother tells the myth of Mayari and how she transitioned into living in heaven among the gods. Told in verse in English and Tagalog, the story switches between Elsie’s childhood, the myth, and moving/adjusting to living in the United States. How will Elsie adjust to her new life? The verse works well for telling the story. The plot is interesting and realistically portrays the struggles of trying to f Half-Filipino, half-white, Stella and Luna request a bedtime story from their mom, Elsie. Their mother tells the myth of Mayari and how she transitioned into living in heaven among the gods. Told in verse in English and Tagalog, the story switches between Elsie’s childhood, the myth, and moving/adjusting to living in the United States. How will Elsie adjust to her new life? The verse works well for telling the story. The plot is interesting and realistically portrays the struggles of trying to fit in and adjust to living in two different cultural worlds. Readers who enjoy novels told in their own voice, realistic fiction, magical realism, and multi-generational stories will enjoy reading this book. 4 stars, Grades 7 to 9

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "So tonight, I will also tell you my Aguila family story, the story of immigrants who had to work four times harder than everyone else to dream the American dream." "The days of our life were long, but the years would be short." "My heart beats with a rhythm of regret." "Could the points between acceptance and belonging really be so far away from each other?" "Maybe she was worried we would forget where we came from once we got to where we were going...Maybe she knew we would need our names to wear "So tonight, I will also tell you my Aguila family story, the story of immigrants who had to work four times harder than everyone else to dream the American dream." "The days of our life were long, but the years would be short." "My heart beats with a rhythm of regret." "Could the points between acceptance and belonging really be so far away from each other?" "Maybe she was worried we would forget where we came from once we got to where we were going...Maybe she knew we would need our names to wear as armor when we went through Hell." "How could the points between acceptance and belonging be so far away from each other?" "If you can't go home again, then you must take home with you wherever you go."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    With thanks to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Penguin Young Readers Group for an early copy in return for an honest review. I've been reading more novels in verse recently and loving this format...definitely want to continue the trend of reading more! It took me a couple chapters in the book to really separate in my mind the present day characters, the mom's experience growing up, and the story of the gods and goddesses, but once I got them sorted, their stories all flowed beautifully, I appreciated With thanks to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Penguin Young Readers Group for an early copy in return for an honest review. I've been reading more novels in verse recently and loving this format...definitely want to continue the trend of reading more! It took me a couple chapters in the book to really separate in my mind the present day characters, the mom's experience growing up, and the story of the gods and goddesses, but once I got them sorted, their stories all flowed beautifully, I appreciated the glossary at the back of the book with gods and goddesses from Tagalog mythology. I love when I can read a book and know just who to recommend it to (I already emailed his mom with the info!) so I'm excited to share this with students.

  17. 5 out of 5

    noa expósito

    7/10 I mean it was cute. It had good potential. It was very original and I loved that it talked about mythology and a real-life story. But it felt too short. I would’ve loved to know more about the gods and their new life in heaven; that storyline was fascinating, but again, it was too brief. I would’ve also liked to learn more about Elsie’s story and her family. The audiobook was heart-warming and sometimes confusing, but once you understood whose story you were listening to, it was very intere 7/10 I mean it was cute. It had good potential. It was very original and I loved that it talked about mythology and a real-life story. But it felt too short. I would’ve loved to know more about the gods and their new life in heaven; that storyline was fascinating, but again, it was too brief. I would’ve also liked to learn more about Elsie’s story and her family. The audiobook was heart-warming and sometimes confusing, but once you understood whose story you were listening to, it was very interesting. I get that it was a middle grade and that’s probably why it didn’t delve so deep into the stories. 3,5⭐️

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I received an eARC courtesy of Dial Books/Penguin Young Readers Group via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I love the concept of this. I love the use of Philippine mythology, but the story is so difficult to follow. Something about the format just seems like it might be hard for it's target demographic to follow. This could just be formatting issues with the eARC that I was reading though. I will say that this is one author I will keep an eye on. I received an eARC courtesy of Dial Books/Penguin Young Readers Group via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I love the concept of this. I love the use of Philippine mythology, but the story is so difficult to follow. Something about the format just seems like it might be hard for it's target demographic to follow. This could just be formatting issues with the eARC that I was reading though. I will say that this is one author I will keep an eye on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Great lyrical book intermixing the Philippine myth of Mayari the moon goddess and a mother recounting her own story of immigrating to America to her children. The mythology of the Philippines really came alive to me through this book, and I loved that the most. A fast and an easy read for kids third grade and up. A beautiful tale for everyone.

  20. 5 out of 5

    C

    An interesting story. I liked how the text color changed (from black to blue)when it you were reading the bedtime story verses the mom talking to her daughters. This book does contain a glossary in the back for all the tagalog words throughout the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jenn of The Bookish Society

    I felt like this story could use another round of editing. I liked the stories of Phillipine Mythology but the presentation was confusing to me as an adult. I think this might be a miss for a lot of kids.

  22. 4 out of 5

    LS Johnson

    I thought this was a very powerful book in verse. I haven’t read many books with a Filipino main character. I liked the mixture of “real story” and mythology.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Riddle

    Pinoy!!!!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    This hit so close to home. So good!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lonna Pierce

    Review to follow in School Library Connection journal.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens

    This important novel-in-verse debut weaves a dramatic immigrant story together with Pilipino mythology to create something wholly new.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    A beautiful tale told in verse. Layers of stories to make one big story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marion Mrc

  29. 5 out of 5

    Selma Flores

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mikalyn

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