by Zachary Sterling (Author) Zachary Sterling (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

From rising star Zachary Sterling comes a humorous and heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel that celebrates food, family, and folklore.

Can two kids save the world and work their family food truck?

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. To make matters worse, they have to help their parents run the family food truck by dressing up as a dancing pig and passing out samples. Ugh! And their mom is always pointing out lessons from Filipino folklore -- annoying tales they've heard again and again. But when witches, ogres, and other creatures from those same stories threaten their family, JJ and Althea realize that the folklore may be more real that they'd suspected. Can they embrace who they really are and save their family?

Select format:

Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred 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

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


An engaging tribute to family, food, and finding yourself.

Review quotes

"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... An engaging tribute to family, food, and finding yourself." — Kirkus Reviews

Zachary Sterling
Zachary Sterling is a Filipino-American illustrator, sequential artist, writer, and animation designer. Over the past several years, Zachary has worked on comics and graphic novels for young adult readers as well as animation designs for Frederator Studios and Netflix. He was born in Torrance, California, but raised in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon -- the place he proudly calls home.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
October 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV008040 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | Action & Adventure
JUV008110 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | Humorous
Library of Congress categories
Graphic novels
Action and adventure comics
Filipino Americans
Humorous comics
Food trucks
Mythology, Philippine
Filipino American authors
Filipino American children
Junior Library Guild
Gold Standard Selection

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!