Cover Reveal : A Dog Named Haku, A Holiday Story From Nepal by Margarita Engle with Amish Karanjit and Nicole Karanjit

All dogs are honored with treats and decorations during an October festival in Nepal. This one belongs to Amish’s uncle.

Imagine a holiday for celebrating dogs. Not just pampered pets, but strays too. All over the city and countryside, people shower puppies and older dogs with treats, blessings, and decorations. This festival is real, but few Americans are aware of its beauty or significance.

When my Nepali son-in-law, Amish Karanjit, told me a story from his own childhood, I was awestruck. He captured my imagination. I asked him to tell it again, this time while we were enjoying a meal of curries and momo  (dumplings) at a Nepali restaurant. Our dinner companions were the noted poetry wizards Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. From the delighted expressions on the faces of these literacy experts, I could tell that Amish’s story belonged in a children’s book.

Together with Amish, a medical biotech research associate, and my daughter Nicole, who brought educational experience to the project, I launched into my first collaboration. Co-authoring a simple picture book in verse was a cheerful and lively experience. Then the devastating 2015 earthquake struck Nepal. Amish’s parents and siblings survived, but they slept outdoors for weeks, terrified of aftershocks. Abruptly, our happy manuscript about a funny childhood experience at a colorful festival seemed incomplete. We sat down and revised it to incorporate themes of survival and perseverance.

The finished book is now a combination of Amish’s true tale, and the experience of earthquake survivors. It is not only about the admirable Nepali tradition of respecting all dogs, but also about honoring the search and rescue canines who help first responders locate survivors in the rubble of any disaster.  A Dog Named Haku is especially important to me for several reasons. One is that my husband is a volunteer K-9 first responder who searches for lost people with the help of our own dogs in California. Even more important is the need for books that will serve as windows, mirrors, and border-crossing bridges for any child eager to learn about Nepal. Amish is often frustrated by the lack of geographical education he finds in the U.S. I’ve heard people confuse his nation with Naples, assuming that he’s Italian. I’ve seen his dismayed expression when an American woman confused Nepal with the fictional kingdom of Shangri-La, telling him: “Oh, that’s the place where all the people are beautiful and everyone is always happy.”

Together, Amish, Nicole, and I hope that American children who read our book will learn about Kathmandu, Hindu traditions, and search and rescue dogs. I’m also grateful that my half-Nepali granddaughter will have a book that serves as a mirror, inviting her to be proud of her father’s culture.

 

 

Margarita Engle with one of her childhood pets.

Margarita Engle is the 2017-2019 Young People’s Poet Laureate, and the Cuban-American author of many award-winning children’s books, including the Charlotte Zolotow winner, Drum Dream Girl, and the Newbery Honor-winner, The Surrender Tree. She lives with her husband and his search and rescue dogs in central California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amish Karanjit (right) and his brother near Kathmandu, quite a few years ago.

Amish Karanjit was born in Nepal. Once, during the annual dog-honoring festival, he and his older brother were scolded for feeding their family’s entire feast to a stray puppy. Amish is now a biotechnology research associate, and lives near San Francisco with his wife Nicole and their daughter Maya.

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Karanjit with one of her childhood pets.

 

Nicole Karanjit studied applied linguistics, taught English to adult international students, and is now a full-time mom and mixed-media artist. Nicole lives near San Francisco with her husband Amish and their daughter Maya, but often visits her parents, Curtis and Margarita Engle, and their search and rescue dogs Chance and Abby.