AOB: What is the title of your book? Pub date and publisher?
Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog. 2004, Houghton Mifflin. It’s a picture book for children. I think it’s most appropriate for the upper age of picture books—age 6 to 10.
AOB: Who is your key dog character and what kind of dog is he/she? Tell us a little more about him/her.
*Hachiko was a Japanese Akita who lived in Tokyo in the 1920s and 1930s.
AOB: In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.
*Hachiko accompanied his master, Dr. Ueno, to the Shibuya train station every working day and always met his master’s evening train. One day Dr. Ueno had a heart attack and passed away at work. He never returned to the train station. Hachiko continued to meet the train every night for the rest of his life. He died still waiting at Shibuya Station—and by that time he was famous all over Japan.
*”This beautifully crafted picture book pays tribute to one of the world’s lesser-known animal heroes: Hachiko…Turner unfolds this poignant true story in the natural, unaffected voice of Kentaro, a fictional little boy, who wonders at the dog’s unswerving devotion. Unobtrusive details evoke a sense of place (“ladies in kimonos walked carefully, trying to keep their white tabi socks away from the grime of the streets”), as does Nascimbene’s spare line-and-watercolor artwork, reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints…this will resonate with any child who has loved a dog and been loved in return.”
–Booklist starred review
AOB: What inspired you to write this story?
*I was living in Tokyo near Shibuya Station and saw the statue, which is inscribed “Loyal Dog Hachiko” in Japanese. Shibuya is now enormous—hundreds of thousands of commuters pass through every day—and if you need to meet someone there you always meet at the Hachiko statue. I asked some of my Japanese friends what the story was behind the statue. I thought Hachiko’s story was heartbreaking and inspiring and wanted to bring it to the English-speaking world.
*The biggest challenge was finding the right tone—I didn’t want anything overly sentimental or maudlin. I decided the right approach would be to tell it in the voice of an older Japanese man who might be telling the story to his grandchildren. That meant a certain amount of culturally-appropriate restraint in the voice.
AOB: What other YA/MG books have you written? Do any of them feature a key dog character? If so, which ones? AOB: What are these stories about?
*Aside from Hachiko, I’ve written mostly science and nature books for middle-graders. My books include Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes (the story of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project), Life on Earth—and Beyond: An Astrobiologist’s Quest (about looking for life in extreme environments), A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts (a biography of the most important field biologist of the 20th century), The Frog Scientist (the story of Dr. Tyrone Hayes’s investigations of the link between amphibian decline and pesticide use), Project Seahorse (the story of coral reef conservation in the Philippines), and Prowling the Seas (high-tech tagging of leatherback sea turtles, bluefin tuna, white sharks, and seabirds).
AOB: What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it about a dog? If so, what is it about?
*My new book The Dolphins of Shark Bay is coming out later this year. It’s about a wild bottlenose dolphin research project in Western Australia and how their discoveries are helping us understand why dolphins are so intelligent. Some of the dolphins in Shark Bay use tools. How amazing is that?
*One of the interesting things about the Hachiko story is how well it fits into the Japanese tradition of the samurai retainer, who is loyal unto death. At the same time, the Hachiko story appeals to anyone who has experienced a dog’s unconditional love. Any culture with pet dogs can appreciate it.
AOB: Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?
*The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. I loved horses and picked this up because of the title. The Chronicles of Narnia are still my favorite books.
Hachiko is such a compelling story it was made into a movie. To view the movie trailer, click here.
Thank you for joining us at Dog Reads, Pamela S. Turner! To learn more about Pamela and her books, check out her website.