New Children’s Book Follows the Whimsical Adventures of a Playful Puppy
“Peekaboo the Poi Dog”
Hardcover, 32 pages, $13.95
Gwen Battad Ishikawa
Island Heritage Publishing’s newest book, “Peekaboo the Poi Dog,” is a story about the creative adventures of a little puppy that spends a rainy day lost in her imagination. The book is a debut of sorts for both author Wendy Kunimitsu Haraguchi and illustrator Kat (Yamamura) Uno.
The story follows young poi dog, Peekaboo, who is trapped at home on a rainy day and is bored silly. Her mother suggests finding an object and imagining it’s something else. Throughout her creative adventure, Peekaboo’s favorite beach towel becomes a cape, a windsurfing sail, a parachute and even a hula skirt. By the time her adventure is over, the day has passed, and so has the rain. Peekaboo then realizes that her imagination is another way to have great adventures.
The book is geared for children under 8 years of age, but would be appreciated by older children who enjoy a cute story.
This is Haraguchi’s first foray into writing and publishing. Her love for books and reading began at a young age, encouraged by her mother, who was the librarian for Momilani Elementary School.
“Ever since I was young, writing a book has been on my bucket list. My mom used to take me and my sister to the library every week. We borrowed 30 to 40 books at a time, brought them home in a big cardboard box and just read.
“I always wanted to write my own book and have it in the library, too. I thought it would be so neat,” she said.
Her inspiration for writing the book came three years ago while watching her then-3-year old daughter, Kailee, play and use her imagination.
Haraguchi said she wanted to do something with a Hawai‘i theme and when thinking of an animal that could go on an adventure, she picked a poi dog. “My favorite animal is the honu (turtle), but as you can see, there’s no honu in the story,” she said.
After completing the story, she sent her manuscript to a Mainland publisher, but it was turned down. She then sent it to Island Heritage for review.
“I hadn’t heard from them, so I didn’t think it would happen,” she said, adding that she almost sent it out to another publisher when she received the call from Island.
Haraguchi’s background is in biology. The 37-year-old sansei graduated from the University of Hawai‘i – Mänoa with a bachelor’s degree and earned a master’s degree in biotechnology from the University of California – Irvine. She worked in quality assurance at Focus Diagnostics and later for Genentech Pharmaceuticals before returning to Hawai‘i in 2008. She now works in quality control for Aryzta, a global baking company.
Haraguchi and her husband Chad have one daughter, Kailee.
Being new to the publishing world, Haraguchi had blind trust when it came to the publishing process. “I was only told what the format of the book was going to be like. I didn’t see the draft, only the final product.”
She says Island Heritage’s editors didn’t make that many changes, but voiced concerns and gave advice regarding rhyming techniques, interpretation and making sure certain wordings were politically correct.
Not seeing any drafts of her story during the process, however, also meant she didn’t know what the artwork looked like, nor did she meet the artist, Kat Uno.
The two only corresponded once through email after the book was completed.
“I wouldn’t change a thing; she did a super good job,” Haraguchi said of Uno’s illustrations. “Her drawings just brought it to life. I couldn’t ask for more. I’m very happy with it,” she said.
“I really liked the text. It’s a cute story,” Uno said of the manuscript. She says she didn’t channel anything specific when drawing Peekaboo. “Peekaboo is a girl. It’s a cute dog going on cute adventures so I wanted a character that had more personality.” Those added touches include Peekaboo’s one floppy ear, a spot over one eye and her heart-shaped collar.
The editors at Island Heritage only saw Kat Uno’s trademark designs when they first approached her to illustrate Haraguchi’s book. Uno usually designs vector flat work, which utilizes straight lines, separate images and texturing.
“Whereas when you draw, you draw a big swash and gesturely paint over the lines,” Uno explained of the style used to illustrate Peekaboo.
Stepping out of her comfort zone to use a new medium was a challenge that Uno gladly accepted.
“This was the first big project I’ve done in a long time where I’ve digitally painted. It was challenging in that it was a change of process. But being on a computer is a little more forgiving in that I can undo something or remove a layer,” she said.
Kat Uno is no stranger to illustrations or graphic design. Aside from her own projects, Uno illustrates coloring books for a UK company, does craft books for Klutz and baby board books for Cottage Store Press.
The 36-year-old sansei is a graduate of Maui High School. While attending the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, she took tandem courses in animation at Kapi‘olani Community College. “I’ve always been interested in animation, so that was the driving force that got me into drawing,” she said. She admits that the “big eye, expressive character” type of animation is what she prefers over three-dimensional animation, but KCC didn’t offer those type of classes.
Upon graduation, Uno did graphic design for the Hawai‘i office of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After seven years, she decided to leave NOAA and open her own design business as a freelance artist, allowing her more time to spend with her husband John Uno and their two children.
“You don’t think you get to do this [illustrate] in Hawai‘i,” Uno said. “I grew up never thinking about it. You think, ‘Oh, only the people on the Mainland get those jobs.’ You can’t really make a living because there’s not that much work, but with the internet, it totally changes everything,” she said.
She gives an example of the changing times. While in college in the early 2000s, she had to mail manuscripts out to potential clients. Now, those same manuscripts can be sent out in one click through email. Instagram, one of many social media formats, is another way for artists to showcase their work to the masses.
Both women say that their experience working with Island Heritage was a pleasant one.
Haraguchi already has ideas for other books. “I want to do something maybe nonfiction, to make learning fun, but I also want to see how this book does first,” she said.
“Everyone there was super nice,” Uno said of Island Heritage. I’m not sure if they realized how much of a new experience this was for me. It’s is a company that I’ve known for a long time. I see their books at Costco and other places and we have a bunch of their books at home. It’s pretty exciting to say that I have a book now in Costco,” Uno said.
They both agree, however, that they would have liked to have met each other during the process.
“I think it’s always beneficial to meet with the person who wrote it. Because it’s their story and they have a vision and being able to create that vision, everything would fall into place; the characters would come more to life and be able to get into the mindset of what they were thinking about their characters,” Uno said.
“Peekaboo the Poi Dog” retails for $13.95 and can be found at numerous outlets statewide, including Barnes & Noble, Target, Costco, Kmart, Bishop Museum gift shop, Na Mea Hawai‘i, Grand Wailea gift shop and Waimea General Store, among others. It is also found through Amazon and www.welcometotheislands.com/Store/