Today marks the 20th anniversary of picture book Lakas and the Manilatown Fish / Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown from the all Filipino-American creative team of author Anthony D. Robles , illustrator Carl Angel, and designer Lucile Tenazas. Set in San Francisco’s historic Filipino community, this first-ever bilingual English-Tagalog story is a fanciful romp through a dreamscape of the imagination of young Lakas, exploring his neighborhood as he chases a magical fish from a fish store to the bay.
Filipino-Americans have a long history in the U.S. There were almost 40,000 Filipinos in San Francisco in the 1920s, and most lived in a 10-square-block area around Kearny and Jackson Streets. This was the area called Manilatown.
Author Tony Robles begins the story saying that the magical talking fish will “show you the sights of Manilatown, where the manongs and manangs—Filipino men and women—settled in the old days. Young readers will join the chase—past the places where the immigrants ate, laughed, cried, loved, and raised their own children, past their restaurants, grocery stores, pool halls, and barbershops. The manongs live in this city still, and in our hearts.”
Illustrator Carl Angel shares that “the story allowed for a more lyrical painting style, a more outrageous color palette, and for the compositions to have more movement.” He wants the book to be a starting point for children to learn that there once was a bustling, vibrant Manilatown, and also about the humor in Filipino culture. He hopes that after reading the book, children will want to explore their cities, and learn that stories are created through appreciation of heritage and history.
Share this story with the young people in your life. Include it in your classroom lessons, utilizing the comprehensive teacher’s guide.
Praise for Lakas and the Manilatown Fish / Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown:
“The text is fanciful and buoyant, evoking swirls of a child’s imagination. Carl Angel’s brightly-colored illustrations seem to leap off the page at every turn in the same spirit of the renegade fish.” — The Asian Review of Books
“As elaborately staged as a Disney 42nd Street musical—but within shot of The Lion King as entertainment, and a whole lot more authentic . . . This is the rare wish-fulfillment fantasy that teaches no lesson, solves no problem; what puts it over the top, though, is the human element—like the silhouetted figures of Lakas and his daddy walking along the street with a bounce, hand in hand.” — The Horn Book
Hear from the author and illustrator:
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