UOG Press Launches New Children’s Book, “I Lalai i Bilembaotuyan” | Way of life

A new children’s book from the University of Guam Press offers young readers the chance to experience the world of traditional CHmoru music.

UOG Press is releasing “I Lalai i Bilembaotuyan,” written by brother duo Catherine Payne and John Payne II, with artwork by local artist Veronica Cruz.

The book introduces readers to Lålai, a young Chamoru girl who learns to play the bilembaotuyan from her Tåtan Bihu. The instrument, which is historically found in Guam, can be played when struck with a slap stick.

The book shines a light on cross-generational knowledge and the importance of honoring elders, as Lålai shares the musical insight she learned from her Tåtan Bihu with her younger cousins. The book also discusses coping with grief and can help young readers develop their sense of personal strength and resilience.

“My brother, John Payne II, and I have written this book so that more children on our island can gain insight into the unique musical history of the Mariana Islands. I hope they will be inspired to continue learning more on our performing arts, especially bilembaotuyan,” said Catherine Payne.

Community members and families can enjoy a reading from the author at the book launch, which will take place on Saturday, September 17 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Nieves M. Flores Memorial Library in Hagåtña.

Launch attendees will also be treated to a special musical demonstration of the bilembaotuyan by Delores Taitano Quinata, who learned to play the instrument from Jesus Meno Crisostomo, a revered bilembaotuyan master and player. According to a press release from UOG Press, plans for an audiobook and a Quinata workshop on how to make bilembaotuyan are forthcoming.

Interested readers can pre-order the book for $15 from the UOG Press website. The book will also be available for purchase at local bookstores after the September 17 launch.