'The Christmas Toys' has the makings of a classic Christmas story, and indeed, deserves a place in the bookshelves of all families.
The first time I read "Peter Pan," I was maybe eight or nine years old. I was wonderstruck. Peter Pan, Wendy, The Lost Boys, Tinkerbell – the denizens of Neverland, and of course Captain Hook and his band of pirates. They filled my imagination with wondrous images and fantastic musings.
When I reread "Peter Pan" as an adult, I felt differently about the story. I felt sad for Peter Pan and Wendy, and pity for old Captain Hook. It was a wholly different feeling, there was catharsis - I felt joy, and a deep feeling of relief after rereading the story. Truth be told, I distinctly remember shedding tears after reading the final pages of that book. It truly was a classic.
Yvette Fernandez’s “The Christmas Toys” evoked the same feelings for me.
They say the mark of a good classic is that you can read the same story multiple times in different points of your life – and get something new out it. Like "Peter Pan," or "The Little Prince," this new holiday story is the same.
OF FLOPPY DISKS AND CHRISTMAS STORIES
“You know what, you’re not the first person to tell me that,” said Yvette Fernandez, whilst chatting with me at a café in Manila City. I was telling her how I felt sad, melancholic, after reading her latest book, “The Christmas Toys.”
“Some people told me the same thing, how the story made them feel sad. I’m not sure how to feel about that,” Yvette said, in a light, jesting way. I assured her that the sadness I felt had a positive uplifting note – the inspired feeling you get after reading a good book.
“I wrote it as a class assignment with my brother and sisters. It was for an English literature class, under Nieves Epistola. The year was 1989.”
Her brother Joey and David Esteban came up with the original story concept, her sister Jackie did the cover, while sister Lara did the illustrations. “I’m not so creative, because my training was in journalism. So, I normally write based on what I see. In truth, it was my brother who suggested, ‘What about you write a story about toys?’”
Thus, the first iteration of “The Christmas Toys” was born.
After creating the book, they then made photocopies and shared it with friends and family every holiday season. When the internet came along, Yvette would email the story instead.
A time came when the story was lost. “I have been looking for it for the longest time. And then, two years ago, my sister showed me a floppy disk. And it was there, the story. I have no idea how she was able to retrieve the data from that disk, if she went to a shop or used an app – but she did it.”
And now, this Christmas story, intimately cherished by Yvette’s friends and family, can now be ordered online from Fernandez’s Facebook page. She also shared that her books are available as well at the BenCab Museum in Baguio.
A STORY OF REMEMBERING
Yvette Fernandez has crafted a masterful story about returning home, loss, friendship, and remembering. Although not set in the Philippines, the story resonates with the Filipino Christmas story – that of homecomings, reconnecting with friends and family, and reminiscence.
Four toys - a tin soldier, a doll, a bear, and a simple wooden boy, all lost in time, gather over a bonfire, and talk about their memories of Christmas. Each have their own unique stories to tell, however, the last storyteller has a tale that will unlock the true meaning of the holiday.
Bound in a hard cover and exquisitely illustrated by Aldy Aguirre, with book layout by JP Meneses, the story, like any good read, can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike.
“The Christmas Toys” has the makings of a classic Christmas story, and indeed, deserves a place in the bookshelves of all families.
Net proceeds of the book will go to the Carewell Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides support to persons with cancer. This is a cause close to Yvette’s heart, as her late beloved sister Jackie passed away from cancer in 2005.
For inquiries go to Yvette Fernandez’s Facebook page. Price is P850. Also available in limited quantities at the BenCab Museum in Baguio City.
Photos courtesy of Yvette Fernandez.