It’s hard to believe Raja’s Pet Camel has been out in the world for 3 years already! Raja and Kamal were born in my mind a decade before that, so to me, they are even older. It has been my privilege to watch them morph from tiny, hazy shadows in my imagination to the vibrant characters that Parwinder Singh has illustrated in our picture book.
This book was inspired by my family’s village in India. Sardarshahar is a tucked-away town in the desert. It’s not a place on most travel routes, and most people have never heard of it. So I feel lucky to be able to introduce this beautiful place to young readers. In this book, Raja tries to stop his dad from selling their pet camel, Kamal. Raja trains Kamal to try and win a race; he hopes it will be enough to convince his dad to keep the camel.
Despite COVID, Raja’s Pet Camel had a fabulous virtual book launch in October 2020, thanks to my publisher, Cardinal Rule Press. My local news station interviewed me, and I was able to share more about this book with thousands of watchers. I even signed books at the local Barnes & Noble stores – what a thrill it was to see my book facing out on shelves at the bookstore and to imagine little hands taking the book home!
A year later, my local library held its first book walk, and guess whose book was featured? That’s right – it was Raja’s Pet Camel! They coordinated with Cardinal Rule Press to bring this story to the public by posting large placards in one of our busiest parks for two weeks. Each placard had a page from the book printed and enlarged. Kids and their parents could read the story as they walked around the park. We celebrated the opening day of the book walk with prizes and activities, including making puppet camels. Thank you to all of the children who visited the book walk!
My favorite part of this journey has been reading Raja’s Pet Camel to students and answering their questions. Over the last three years, I’ve been fortunate to virtually visit classrooms across the United States, Canada, and as far away as Singapore. Sometimes, I’ve even shared my photos of Sardarshahar that inspired this story. And after realizing that many kids have never tried a date before, I always try to have one on hand now to show them. I love that this book is able to help people learn something new – whether it’s seeing photos of a place they’ve never visited before, learning about a new culture, hearing about a new food, or learning more about the story-writing process. The letters and drawings the children send me are the best; I save each one. One student even sent me a video and said, “I’ll remember it forever.” This message makes me smile each time I see it; it reminds me of why I write, and it makes me proud that this book has resonated with someone else.
Thank you so much to all of you who have supported this book. Thanks to you and my publisher, Raja’s Pet Camel is in bookstores, public libraries, school libraries, school classrooms, and free library boxes. If your public library doesn’t own a copy of Raja’s Pet Camel, please consider requesting it! Raja and Kamal are eager to share the magic of hope with readers around the world.
Anita Nahta Amin is an Indian American author of children’s fiction and nonfiction books. She has over 100 published short stories and articles in children’s literary magazines and educational resources. Born and raised in the United States, she is the daughter of Indian immigrants. Her family roots stretch across North India, from the royal desert of Rajasthan to the bustling river city of Kolkata. For more than a decade, she has been following her passion – writing for children. She lives in Florida with her husband and twin children.