Teaching Keiki To Appreciate Nature
Artist Patrick Ching always has been passionate about Hawaii’s precious ocean resources and Hawaii’s youths. In his latest book, Honu and Hina: A Story of Coexistence, he’s found a way to combine the two to deliver one very strong message.
“We can share the ‘aina with animals,” he says emphatically.
The new children’s book highlights the threatened and endangered Hawaiian sea turtles (honu) and monk seals (hina) that inhabit beaches where they haven’t been seen for hundreds of years. And as we’ve seen on many occasions, their sightings can cause excitement and chaos, and in some cases, conflict.
The story poses questions to Hawaii’s keiki: How will you coexist with these precious creatures of the sea?
“Turtles were once a sacred food in Hawaii, but they were hunted so heavily that they became protected by law,” explains Ching. “Now their numbers are rising and some people want to resume harvesting them again. These are the unique situations we face today that we never have before. This book will make children think about these things because they will be deciding how to deal with these issues in the future.”
Ching paints an interesting scenario to help explain his thoughts.
“Imagine you and your family have been using a beach for lounging and fishing for decades, and a seal appears and takes your bait or raids the fish from your nets,” says Ching. “The seal comes up and rests in your favorite spot and you can’t go near it. You, your parents and your grandparents have never seen a seal here before. What do you do?”
Ching says a photograph taken by renowned turtle scientist George Balazs of a seal with its flipper resting on a honu inspired the book’s cover. And while Ching did his own illustrations, he says he reached out to fellow artists and young school-children to get others interested in the topic.
“At first, I thought that many people could put love into the project, learn from it and make the illustration process go faster,” says Ching. “Well, the illustration process actually took a lot longer, with me orchestrating artists and teaching kids to paint while we worked, but it was so worthwhile. Even parents and professional artists contributed, and everyone’s eyes sparkled as they felt the pride of their contribution. I’m very thankful for all the artists who contributed.”
In 1998, Ching wrote The Story of Hina, a true story about a monk seal that was born in 1991 on Kauai. He says Honu and Hina is the long-awaited sequel. He also says while there are many lessons for parents in this book, he believes it will be the keiki doing the teaching.
“Certainly parents will teach their kids, but in many cases kids will teach their parents about what’s going on today,” says Ching. “The subjects in the book may be more suitable for the older young kids, 6 to 11 years. I feel it is important for families to be aware of some of the history of the turtles and seals in Hawaii. There are some photos of these animals in Hawaii more than 100 years old!”
The book also will be used by organizations to help raise funds for their projects. A portion of sales will be donated to environmental groups. If your group or PTA would like to use it as a fundraiser, email Ching at email@example.com.
“I did this book with respect for Hawaiian culture and traditions — it’s not from a standpoint of never kill or eat animals,” explains Ching.
“I myself love to fish and used to eat turtle before they were protected. More, the book asks readers to think about their own answers as to how they will handle the future of living with turtles and seals.”
Books are available online at patrickchingart.com.