"Very original and whimsical . . . the illustrations are beautiful, inspired." - New York Times
"As a children's picture book, it stands at the top of the class." - The
Globe and Mail
"Cowboy Dreams shows Khalsa's special gift for discerning what is important and communicating it to children."
- The Horn Book
"A farewell treasure to read again and again."
- CM (Canadian Library Association)
"Pictures to pore over, and a story for generations." - Booklist
"Khalsa scores a hit with this nostalgic story filled with charm and beautiful color." - American Bookseller
"A leisurely story recounted in quiet confidence." - The Globe and Mail
"This is a beautiful book, filled with charm and wit and wisdom . . . such a fine
and loving sense of detail, such mastery of storytelling." - New York Times Book Review
Dayal Kaur Khalsa
Many authors write about incidents that took place in their
childhood. Dayal Kaur Khalsa was no different. And although
she wrote and illustrated only eight picture books in her
short life, each one has a piece of Dayal in it. There is
the grandmother who looked after her while her parents
worked, her longing for a pet dog, the winter vacation in
Florida with her family, her dreams of becoming a cowboy,
and the joyous day she discovered pizza for the first time.
Dayal Kaur Khalsa grew up in Queens, New York. She was a
very curious little girl with a big imagination. Her mother
helped Dayal discover her creative talents, but not always
in straightforward ways. Once, Dayal and her mother took an
art course together, but they often skipped classes to go
see Broadway shows or shop. Except for a few other art
lessons, Dayal was a self-taught painter.
When she was older
Dayal left home and traveled across North America. She lived
in Mexico, where she studied yoga, and eventually settled in
Canada, first on a farm in southern Ontario (where she
finally got the pet dog she so very much wanted), and then
She loved her adopted country so much that she left the
artwork from her books to the National Gallery of Canada in
Although she had many adventures in her life, Dayal
recognized the importance of her childhood memories on her
writing. "When I was a young teenager and wanted to be a
writer and couldn't wait to leave home and go on the road in
search of adventures to write about, my mother said, 'There
are stories in your own backyard.'
"'Ha!' I said. So I left
home, went on the road, had lots of adventures, and
eventually, 25 years later, the first book I published took
place in the backyard of my childhood. Ha!"
Khalsa died when she was 46, in Vancouver, British Columbia
on July 17, 1989.
Because she was both an artist and a writer, Dayal would
usually make a new book in a way most people consider
backwards; she would complete her illustrations before she
wrote the story. She usually brought the artwork to her
publisher, May Cutler, told the story to her, and then wrote
Her favorite place to create: Dayal worked at home in a room
paneled halfway up the wall with oak and papered with
gold-lamé peacock wallpaper. She had two tables: one for
writing, the other for painting. She also had a couch where
she spent a lot of time staring into space, thinking.
Her first published work: The first books Dayal published
were a series of colorful board books for babies called,
The BAABEE Books. Many people thought Dayal used strange
color combinations - the babies in the books had big ears
and were colors like blue, pink, and yellow, but babies
Where her ideas came from: "All the books are based on things
I experienced as a child. The pictures look just like the
house and neighborhood where I grew up, as do the people."
Dayal often called upon outside sources for help, though.
"When I'm writing a book I often call a girl I know who is
six and a half years old to ask her what she thinks of a
story, or for ideas of how a child might act in a certain
Dayal claimed she never had writer's block. In fact, she
painted and wrote an incredible number of books in a very
short time. Dayal had just begun her career as an author
when she found out she had cancer. Despite her illness, she
continued to write and paint.
What you should look for in Dayal's books: Dayal often
included details of famous works of arts by well-known
artists in her own pictures. For example, the cover of I
Want a Dog is based on a painting called "Sunday Afternoon
on the Island of Grand Jatte" by an artist named Seurat. And
the grandmother's bedroom in Tales of a Gambling Grandma is
based on a painting by Vincent Van Gogh of his own bedroom.
Dayal also tried to include her many friends in her books.
When May (named for her publisher) and the Penny sisters
visit the library in How Pizza Came to our Town, Dayal
included her own books on the Little Readers shelves, as
well as The Hockey Sweater, a book illustrated by her friend
In 1998, Sheldon made an animated film of Dayal's book, The
Snow Cat. If you watch the film closely, you will see parts
of many of Dayal's other books in it.