My previous post discussed the newly-published Dreams of Hope, a children’s book written by Navjot Kaur. She was good enough to spare a few moments to answer a few questions I had about her and her inspiration.
Your first book, A Lion’s Mane, is well-known in Sikh circles. How has the response been from your readers?
Our readers are the ones who have inspired me forward. When they take the time to write and share a special moment with me with reference to reading A Lion’s Mane, it just makes my heart smile. Having just recently moved to Vancouver, from Ontario, it has been wonderful to see the reactions on people’s faces when they see the Sikh identity on the cover of a children’s book for the first time. It’s quite priceless.
Dreams of Hope is very different than your first book. How did you come up with the idea for this book, and for example, the Chiru?
I read a lot with my son. After his usual quota of about 16 bedtime stories, I try to sing a shabad with him. Once, while visiting family in California, my niece was lying with us during this time and she said “Masi, can you make me a Vaa hey guroo story?” and so I did.
Dreams of Hope is essentially a bedtime lullaby but instead of having the mother put her child to bed, I thought I would change the roles. Coming from a family with five daughters, I know that it was my dad that inspired my love for literacy. Our Dads like to be just as involved in raising their children, but it’s not always represented in text or visual images.
As far as the Chiru, I wanted to create a feeling of calm and peace while writing the story and was drawn to the beauty of the natural world. When I thought about the language “mantras of peace”, I began researching the landscape and fauna of Tibet and came upon the story of the Chiru. In the South-Asian community, we often hear about the beautifully soft shawls that are made from wool so soft and delicate that they can pass through a ring. The consequence of producing these shawls of non-conscience are that the Chirus are hunted and killed for their Shahtoosh, or fine wool. I wanted to ensure I brought awareness to this issue in a humble way.
In your mind, what makes a good children’s book?
It really depends on the genre but what attracts me to a children’s book are unique and diverse perspectives. I want stories to be authentic, not literal or stereotypical. I also prefer to support indie authors and indie bookstores as I appreciate their diverse lists focused on issues of social justice or critical literacy. At the end of the day, though, if my son is drawn to a book and wants to read it, I will buy it for him since I want to give him every opportunity to love reading.
Who is your favorite author?
I’m not sure I have a favourite author since I am inspired by so many great writers and genres. As far as the children’s picture book genre (which I used extensively to teach bigger issues with my students upto Grade 7) some of my favourite books would be Jon J. Muth’s Three Questions, Menena Cottin’s The Black Book of Colors, Rachel Hausfater’s The Little Boy Star, and I have to say that although many of the Dr. Seuss books have stereotypical images, his writing was quite visionary.
Do you have any other projects on the horizon that we should keep an eye out for?
Absolutely! I am constantly working on ideas in my head and wish I had more quiet time to sit down and develop them. There is an adaptation to the 300 year-old version of the Vaisakhi story so that children today can connect to it and really appreciate the values that the event of Vaisakhi brought to society at the time. We will also be introducing a fun video to show the process of tying the patka which viewers can share with teachers and caregivers before schools return this September.
Many thanks to Navjot for answering my questions, and best wishes for success of her new title and future projects!