As a group of avid readers in the LRP team we are very happy to have recently expanded our book offering online and in the showroom. We knew you would be interested in finding out more about some of the wonderful authors and illustrators who have created the ones we've selected. All books have a Hong Kong theme whether it be written or illustrated by someone who lives here or is about the city, the stories and the history of the place so many of us call home.
We have created a series of Ask The Author blog posts where we ask the same three questions (with an added bonus one at the end!) to find out more about their connection to the city, what their book is all about, what inspires them and their favourite things to see and do in the 852.
My name is Suzanne Younan. I’m from a small town in Berkshire in the UK and moved to Hong Kong in 2015 with my family and loved the energy from day one.
I was a little nervous to move initially as I'd imagined just a huge, busy city with very little green space. Being a mum, dog owner and nature lover, I was anxious about the lack of outdoor space! However, that quickly fell away when I discovered Hong Kong is over 75% green!
The inspiration for my first book ’The Green Dragon’ came after Typhoon Hato in September 2017.
It was my first category 8 typhoon. I answered a call on Facebook to join a group of volunteers to help clean up the debris that had washed ashore on Ma Hang Beach in Stanley. It was a beach I knew well as I would take Rusty, my four-legged friend there for fun.
The impact of the typhoon was extreme. I was beyond shocked. I had been dragon boating in Stanley for around a year and had slowly noticed the plastic and rubbish on the beach and in the sea. But I had no idea how much there was in the sea until that moment on Ma Hang Beach.
There were 16 of us and we spent 5 hours cleaning up everything imaginable. The beach was covered in Styrofoam chips, and every plastic item imaginable: chairs, boats, engines, oil drums, and crockery ….. I could go on forever. It looked to me as though Mother Nature had thrown everything back onto the beach. I was so sad to see so much human rubbish in the water.
And not one week later, there was another category 8 typhoon, and the call went out again to help clean up Ma Hang. So down I went to the same beach with the same group and found a similar scene – but this time even worse!
However, this time I wasn’t just upset, I was angry, and frustrated, and the experience moved me to tears. Something changed in me that day.
Although I had always been an advocate for the planet and appreciated nature, I felt I HAD to do something more to raise awareness. One beach clean-up wasn’t going to solve the problem.
My brain went into overdrive thinking of how I could raise awareness of the issue of plastic and rubbish in the ocean. I imagined that if everyone came to the beaches after a typhoon, as I had, they would feel the same way I did and be moved to reduce the single-use plastics in their lives.
My first port of call was to ask the advice of Dana and Tracey from Plastic Free Seas (my heroes). Then it was to find support from my team-mates in the dragon boating community.
I had seen so many sportsmen and women taking single-use plastic water bottles to training, and the festivals went to another level; sometimes handing out 3,000 water bottles at each race event.
At the time, Hong Kong was throwing away 5.4 million single-use plastic bottles per day and I could not comprehend it.
I formed a volunteer organisation called ‘Green Dragons Hong Kong’ and encouraged teams to pledge to ‘Paddle Without Plastic’. It wasn’t hard to convert many teammates to help spread this message as they too were seeing the impact of single-use plastics in the waters during training. We advocated at events, to festival organisers, to local businesses and to whoever would listen. We had over 60 teams onboard with the message BC (Before Covid).
During these early years, I felt my frustration growing at not doing more. I looked at my young son and realised that was where I could make a difference, raising awareness among children by capturing their imagination and educating them from a young age.
Education is the key.
I had written a couple of stories for my son growing up, but those were just for us. It was a scary thought to put something out into the world but I decided to take it one step at a time.
I found an editor who encouraged me to go forward with the story, was introduced to an illustrator and the rest is history! ‘The Green Dragon’ took just over a year from the idea to a printed book. And what an incredibly humbling and uplifting whirlwind it has been!
‘The Green Dragon’ story follows a friendly dragon, Willy, who lives around the rocks in Stanley, on the Southside of HK island. We find Willy with his friends and other Hong Kong wildlife that has been affected by the plastic pollution in the water. A young boy offers his help after hearing the story and decides to take action in his own community.
My hope is to help empower children to identify a problem or even a feeling, and take action, however small.
The book has been loved by children, parents, and educational institutions. I’m often invited into schools to read my books and hold discussions with the students about how we can do things better for Mother Nature.
I’ve carried on writing as more ideas have been inspired by other issues that need awareness brought to them. The stories feature indigenous wildlife in Hong Kong, which I hope children connect to, and appreciate when they are in nature discovering the animals in real life. From Herbert the wild boar, to mischievous monkeys in the latest book.
Favourite thing to do in Hong Kong
My absolute favourite thing to do in Hong Kong is to hike. Nature is my retreat and my treat. I love to hike with my dog. My mind and body relax, and the ideas flow as I’m walking through the jungle. My goal with the stories is to encourage children to explore nature and take a hike!
Favourite thing to do with kids in Hong Kong
One of my favourite things to do with children in Hong Kong is to visit the pink dolphins with the HK Dolphin Watch. It is a wonderful educational trip and very exciting. I recently joined a tour with a school and experiencing the delight and excitement in the children was magical!
Watch this space as there will be more from Willy, The Green Dragon!