Leslea Newman Talks About "Hachi"
Lesléa and Miss Truvy (2001)
I don't remember when I first heard Hachiko's story. I may have read about it, or someone may have told me about it. But I do remember when I decided to write a book about it. It was the fall of 2001. Like everyone else, I was shattered by what had happened on September 11th. I was unable to write for the first time in my life. I spent my days at home, with a sweet little bichon frise named Miss Truvy who belonged to two friends of mine.
Miss Truvy was old and not well, and her owners did not want to leave her alone while they were at work all day. So I agreed to watch her at my house (much to the dismay of my two cats). I had grown up with a Cairn terrier named Angus whom I still miss even after all these years, and was more than happy to have a dog in my life again. What I wanted more than anything at that time, was to write a small, quiet book full of hope for both adults and children. But I couldn't come up with an idea.
And so I sat in my writing room on the couch with Miss Truvy, who slept most of the day away. (If you didn't look too closely, you might have thought she was a throw pillow). But I noticed at about quarter to six, she'd wake up out of a sound sleep and go to the door where she'd stand, wagging her tail. A few minutes later, one of her owners would ring the bell. She would joyfully greet him and then they would go home. And that's when I remembered the story of Hachiko and decided to write a book about him.
I was unable to travel to Japan (though I do hope to go someday) so I went to the library. I started my research by reading books of Japanese poetry, including A HAIKU JOURNEY by Basho, A YEAR OF MY LIFE by Issa, and ONE HUNDRED POEMS FROM THE JAPANESE by Kenneth Rexroth. Next I read some children's books about Japan including THE CAT WHO WENT TO HEAVEN by Elizabeth Coatsworth, and SADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES by Eleanor Coerr. I also read many nonfiction books about Japanese culture and history.
Next I studied up on the unique aspects of the Akita. I also spent a wonderful day with a champion Akita named Nico, who looks very much like Hachi in terms of size and color. And then I started to write. The more I learned about Hachi, the more I fell in love with him.
When my book was published, I started traveling to schools to talk about Hachi and his message of friendship, loyalty, and devotion. I have made many friends because of Hachi. Everyone who hears his story is very moved by it. I have met many children who have drawn pictures of him, written poems about him, and named their stuffed animals after him! Even all these years after his death, Hachi continues to bring joy and hope into the lives of many, many people. He is truly a gift to all of us.
Learn more about Leslea Newman at http://www.lesleakids.com/hachiko.html