Everyone loves a good story about perseverance, faith, and courage. This is especially true when the story comes with the opportunity to be exposed to a new language and culture.
Dorje the Yak by Caryn Hartman is a tale of triumph over adversity. It follows the struggle of Dorje, and the struggle of Tibet, to assert an identity in a changing world. Written in both English and Tibetan, this picture book is a powerful visual story of Tibet and its culture for children.
Published by Pema Publishing, Dorje the Yak (pronounced Dor-jay) is a beautiful book with a heart-warming story about a small yak in the large land of Tibet who has a deep determination to assert his identity in a changing world.
A Dual Language Picture Book about the Tibetan Culture
Dorje is smaller than all the other yaks…and he knows it. His diminutive stature makes it impossible for him to carry heavy loads so he is often left behind and filled with loneliness.
Even his owners have noticed his tiny size and nicknamed him, Mug Chung, which means “Little Brown” in Tibetan. Small, tiny, little…all words that Dorje is not fond of hearing when others talk about him.
One night, Dorje hears his human owners retelling the tale of the great Snow Lion; a mythical beast who is wise, powerful, and strong. As he listens, Dorje hatches a secret plan to find the Snow Lion in hopes that he can make him big and strong as well. In the morning, Dorje gives one last look at his tiny reflection in the blue waters of the lake and sets off on the difficult journey.
His lengthy trek, one that is filled with unexpected twists and turns, ultimately leads to the discovery that reveals the real truth; that the size of our bodies is not what matters–it’s the size our hearts and the depth of our actions.
Readers of all ages will be drawn in by the gorgeous illustrations and well-written text. Dorje is perfect for readers from 6-9, but older children and adults who are interested in the plight of Tibetans will love it too. The MCBD team is beyond thrilled to see a quality picture book that includes both the English and Tibetan languages within the story. Dorje the Yak is a true jewel in the world of children’s books.
“Compelling and informative, this book is a great addition to the library of any family interested in other cultures and ways of looking at the world.” ~Manuel Lopez
The Inspiration for Dorje
As a former ESL and Kindergarten teacher for Denver Public Schools, author Caryn Hartman is keenly aware of the importance of exposing young readers to new cultures and traditions at an early age. After a trip to Tibet inspired her to pursue a degree in Tibetan studies, she spent many years trying to find a way to marry these two passions.
“When I first went to Tibet in 1998 there was something about it that spoke so deeply to my soul. That soul-stirring stayed with me long after I returned to the U.S. and I went on to pursue a degree in that field,” Caryn recalled. “At the time, I couldn’t foresee myself going into academia solely based on that degree so my knowledge of Tibet went on the back burner while I pursued another passion. That passion was teaching young children. It was then that I realized how few books about Tibet are available for children. There are many books about Tibetan Buddhism, but what of the land and people themselves? So, fueled by my love of writing, I found a way to bridge the two passions that were a part of my life: Tibet and teaching.”
The story rolled around in her brain for months and when she connected with illustrator, Lexi Vay, and Tibetan translator, Gangkar Lhamo, the vibrant story and life lessons of Dorje the Yak came to life in a dual language picture book. From the very beginning, Caryn’s mission with her book was to not only share a story of triumph over adversity but also to create a colorful means to share a message of cultural preservation.
“I chose the main character to be a yak because they are such sacred animals in the Tibetan culture,” Caryn shared. “Tibetans refer to yaks as ‘norbu’ which translates to ‘jewel’ or ‘nornak’ which means ‘the black treasure.’ This fact is just one of the many that make these people their culture so special. The plight of the Tibetan culture is getting lost in the shuffle of mainstream media, but its story needs to be told. I hope that the story of Dorje the Yak speaks to people’s hearts. Because it is from my own heart that it was written.”
Dorje the Yak Resources for Teachers
Not only does Caryn provide wonderful resources on the Tibetan culture and language in the back pages of Dorje The Yak…
…Pema Publishing also offers a robust teacher resource section on their website here.
With a passion for Tibetans still firmly planted in her heart, Caryn and Pema Publishing have also created a way to give back to the refugee children of Tibet. Book lovers have the option of purchasing a copy of Dorje the Yak to donate to the Tibetan Children’s Village and Tibetan language schools throughout India & Nepal. To date, over 54 books have been donated so far!
“I really wanted Tibetan children to not only read a book in their language but I wanted to also offer a story that supports their English language learning as well,” Caryn noted.
Go HERE to see how you can donate a copy and bring joy to a Tibetan child.
The Creative Team Behind Dorje the Yak
About the author: Caryn Hartman got her BA in Anthropology and Religious Studies from the University of Colorado. After studying abroad in India, Nepal, and Tibet, she fell in love with Tibetan culture. She got her MA from the University of Virginia in History of Religion with a focus on Tibet. After graduate school, she taught in Denver Public Schools for nine years. She is excited to combine her passion for Tibetan culture with her love of children’s stories to create an awareness of Tibet’s plight.
Caryn lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, two boys, and a snuggly cat. She loves to travel, go on long road trips, and will jump at any chance to be surrounded by mountains.
About the illustrator: Lexi Vay is an artist living in Los Angeles with her husband and cat. She really loves storytelling through art and animation and enjoys working both traditionally and digitally.
She’s also an avid fountain pen enthusiast! In her off hours she’s probably sketching, practicing calligraphy, meditating, or watching cartoons, but usually not all at once!
About the translator: Gangkar Lhamo (pen name), a Tibetan woman from Kham in eastern Tibet, grew up with yaks and now studies at an American university. Tibetans and yaks have a symbiotic relationship; Tibetans call them “nornak,” the black treasure. Yaks are a treasure because they have provided Tibetans with so much: clothing, shelter (black tents), food, warmth, and companionship. Gangkar Lhamo believes that stories are rivers that sustain and nourish our existence; all children are made with stories. She hopes that Dorje the Yak waters the seeds of hope, curiosity, and imagination in the hearts of all readers, Tibetan and English.