A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Steeped in and inspired by Filipino folklore that includes deities from the Tagalogs, the largest cultural-linguistic group in the Philippines. An extensive glossary in the back includes the names and pronunciations of gods, monsters, and other creatures as well as common Filipino words found peppered throughout the text. Each chapter heading begins with a Filipino word and definition. Descriptions of common Filipino foods like espasol, pusô, and puto. Some description on how to play a traditional game called sungka.
Love mends all things, especially the love and bonds of family. There's no loss greater than a life unlived. If you are always moving forward and seeking new adventures you won't be overcome by sorrow and loss.
Positive Role Models
Marikit beings the story overwhelmed by envy. She will never have the nice birthday dresses a friend has and thinks these kinds of treasures have the most value. On her journey she learns otherwise. Friendship, freedom, and love become much more important. She will also do anything to help her family and friends, including face a goddess's wrath.
All of the characters are Filipino and the stories are steeped in Filipino folklore. Various skin tones of characters are described and stereotypes associated with skin tone are discussed. Marikit meets Aman Sinaya, the goddess of the waters, and "For a moment, Marikit only gazed at her with pure marvel. She glanced at her own skin, which was the same color as the woman before her -- brown and sun-soaked and shining. Something blossomed in her chest. Pride, it said." Marikit's mother doesn't speak and communicates in sign language. Marikit's family is of lower income, and she's always wearing clothes her mother makes for her, mostly from scraps.
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Violence & Scariness
Some scares, especially in tunnels when characters are pursued by talking wolf-like creatures (aswang) who threaten to eat their victims. Aswang are burned, confined by magic, and one loses an eye. A magical character dies by throwing itself in a volcano so it can be buried and reborn. A boy finds out his parents died years ago and mourns. Children get trapped in an enchanted sleep. Much talk of the loss of Marikit's father and brother, fisherman who went missing at sea three years before. Story of sibling gods fighting and the brother throwing the sister's eyeball in the river.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A boy flirts with girls.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A giant smokes tobacco, and other, shapeshifting monsters drink fermented palm sap. Adults drink wine, including the mayor who drinks too much.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Marikit and the Ocean of Stars is a fantasy inspired by Filipino folklore and a great read-aloud filled with lessons about love, loss, friendship, and the bonds of family. Readers will meet magical creatures and deities on Marikit's journey to a fantastical realm and even learn some Filipino words. Expect some scares, especially in tunnels when characters are pursued by talking wolf-like creatures (aswang) who threaten to eat their victims. Aswang are burned, confined by magic, and one loses an eye. A magical character dies by throwing itself in a volcano so it can be buried and reborn. A boy finds out his parents died years ago and mourns. There's much talk of the loss of Marikit's father and brother, fisherman who went missing at sea three years before. Some characters in the magical realm smoke and drink, all of them adults.
Is It Any Good?
This sweet, sometimes quirky quest tale with a very relatable female hero brings exciting elements of Filipino folklore to life. Marikit is every kid who's full of envy at a rich girl's birthday party and annoyance at her mom for not getting her birthday dress just right. In fact, her naynay (mom) gets it horribly wrong, or so Marikit thinks. The genius of the scrappy dress is revealed in the land of Engkantos. It's got a needle for a compass and lets Marikit know when she's headed toward danger. Of course, Marikit doesn't always follow Mom's rules or the warnings of other fantastical characters, like a sweet firefly creature who follows her. Watch out when Marikit takes off the dress to let it dry, when she waves at giants to be polite, and when she heads into a mysterious city trapped in a bottle. Things get extra nail-biting exciting when the sinister wolf-like aswang creatures are in pursuit.
Marikit and the Ocean of Stars would make a fantastic family read-aloud for fans of fairy tales. (If you get stuck on some of the Filipino words as you go along, bookmark the glossary -- it includes pronunciations.) The story moves at a good pace and Marikit makes some curious and quirky friends to root for, like a lazy boy waking up from a curse and a sheltered girl who catches on fire in the sun. She meets some prickly deities, too, like the goddess of the waters who doesn't see why Marikit wants to save her friends and family. She also learns to tame her green envy monster and makes some decisions about what matters to her, decisions that will really resonate with families. The writing is at its lyrical best at the beginning of the story and focuses less on pretty prose as the story ramps up. That said, readers probably won't mind this shift by story's end. It's about as "happily ever after" as it gets.
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