A wonderful new children’s book has been released and the story behind its author is just as interesting as the darling, must-have book itself.
Author Lori Wagner called upon her Armenian relatives from her first marriage to create Bachik the Birthday Kiss, now available in colorful hardcover.
Bachik the Birthday Kiss‘s cover shows a young boy with full lips and big brown eyes tenderly receiving a birthday kiss on each cheek by adoring, Armenian relatives. The opening page shows a grandmother on a sofa teaching the toddler grandson: “Dzapik, dzapik, clap, clap, clap.” English and transliterated Armenian appear on each page, like “Mek, yerku, yerek, one, two, three.” The back of the book contains Armenian words, a guide to pronunciation, and meanings.
You will be thrilled as you turn each page, as it reminds you of the joys of teaching young ones about their “Kitik, dodik, and hoopla.” Bachik is a book that should appear on every school shelf and home bookcase. It also fulfills an important educational tool as we continue to make inroads to expose our culture to others.
So what does a girl raised in the insular atmosphere of Paducah, Ky., know about Armenians? And why do several of her books have an Armenian theme? She married one. She wed the elusive Peter Kalajian from the Boston area when he was 42. He had come to Michigan to work for General Motors, carving a very successful career designing automotive interiors. He also taught Sunday School in Troy, Mich., where they met.
Brought together by their spirituality, she said, “He was a Godly, very talented man with a fine character. I am glad he waited for me. He whisked me off my feet, making me feel like Cinderella.” They honeymooned in Peru and their interest in different cultures blended. Together they traveled to Switzerland, St. Thomas, and the Amazon. Their children Noelle and Charles were only five- and one-year-old when Peter passed away of cancer.
Wagner dedicated Bachik to Peter’s family and his Armenian heritage. “With the Armenian deep love of family I wanted to share from a treasure chest of wonderful memories I cherish of my children playing games on grandma’s porch,” she said.
Maintaining the theme of family, Wagner’s niece, Andrea Kalajian of West Bloomfield, Mich., the daughter of her husband Peter’s twin brother, has filled the pages with brilliant, vibrant illustrations. She is an award-winning artist pursuing a bachelor of fine arts from the California College of Arts. Her lively drawings further endear Bachik to your heart.
Bachik is dedicated to Wagner’s Armenian mother-in-law, whom she describes as a phenomenal cook, and to the countless Armenian families who, she said, “opened their hearts and homes to odars like me.” She thanks her mother-in-law for sharing the Armenian culture, language, and warmth with her. And that is why I wanted to introduce the Lori Wagner I got to know—the one who overcame adversity with her faith in God, the one with the ever-present personable smile and calm personality—to my readers. She has embraced, not denied, Armenian culture and customs.
Wagner and her children still pay annual visits to her in-laws at their summer camp home on Cape Cod, where her husband spent time growing up. Her now 17-year-old daughter is taught Armenian recipes by her grandmother and Lori documents these events with photo shoots—soon after documented in a scrap book so the memory of the grandmother will always remain alive.
I had met Wagner at a book signing and became curious about this odar who had been wed to an Armenian. As an Armenian and a mother, I was drawn to her because I found her philosophy about marriage as interesting as her writing career. She said to me, “When you fall in love with someone, they don’t come alone. They come with a family, and to honor your husband, you honor his family, too.” Now this was no ordinary odar daughter-in-law. “I have learned from my Armenian relationships and I hope I have contributed something back as well,” she said. Bachiks to you too, Lori.
Lori became a member of the very giving Kalajian family, who accepted her and demonstrated their love and, as she said, even spoiled her.
Wagner recently gave a well-received PowerPoint presentation of Bachik at the award-winning AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian Day School in Southfield, and is available to do presentations. Her next project is a middle-school chapter book titled The Pirates of Castle Rock, about the growing up exploits of her husband Pete and his twin brother during their times at the Cape camp.
Very Important: To Lori Wagner’s immense credit, portions of Bachik‘s proceeds are designated to support the Armenian Children’s Milk Fund. Founded in 1989, this charitable organization provides life-saving, soy-based infant formula and dry powdered milk to sick children and poor infants in Armenia.
Wagner admits there have been difficult mountains for her to climb in life, and that her passion for biblical truths and her energetic spirit could not have been possible without her strong Christian faith. She serves as the Detroit metro area coordinator for the National Day of Prayer and as a member of the Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators. She does keynote speaking, short programs, and is available to do book presentations.
Autographed copies of the full-color, 32-page book Bachik the Birthday Kiss can be ordered from the publisher Affirming Faith for $19.95. For more information, visit www.affirmingfaith.com or call (248) 909-5735.