Brothers Alu and Bhalu are celebrating Kukur Tihar, a special day to honor dogs during festival time in Nepal.
The two young boys search the streets of Kathmandu for a stray dog to feed, remembering the brave search-and-rescue dogs that saved many lives after earthquakes devastated their country in 2015. Multiaward-winner Engle teams up with her daughter, Nicole Karanjit, and son-in-law, Amish Karanjit (who was born and raised in Nepal), to craft this tale based on a true story from another part of the world. The spare text is interwoven with authentic touches about Nepali family and culture, describing how “families chased away the darkness / by lighting lanterns on doorsteps, / rooftops, / and windowsills” and how the children strive “not to scatter / the rice flour / arranged in dazzling patterns / on the living room floor.” Using a dark palette, Jeyaveeran’s authentic illustrations add another layer of cultural knowledge, showing dark-haired, brown-skinned children and adults wearing traditional Nepali outfits and joyously celebrating the festival. While the resolution to Alu and Bhalu’s search is successful and satisfying, the text may not fully convey to young readers the cultural depth of the brothers’ actions, as they feed their new pet the festival feast meant for the family. The oversimplification of the climax diminishes the impact of this otherwise remarkable story set in another culture.
A sweet sojourn in Nepal; though not perfect, it’s nevertheless an important contribution. (glossary, further reading, activities) (Picture book. 5-8)