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PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 12:00am

AT HIS HOME in the countryside of Hampshire, England, illustrator and author Peter Suart has a library housing an excellent collection of books. These are the books he enjoys reading and having around him while working.

But things were different when he was an adolescent. As a teenager, Suart never went near these books, and most were left on the shelves to collect dust.

'I was no longer interested in reading. I didn't have a love of learning,' recalled the author and illustrator of three books - The Love Of Learning, Where Is The World? and The Storm.

Ironically, it was this experience which led Suart, who spent his formative years in Hong Kong, to write The Love Of Learning, the third instalment of his Tik and Tok adventure book series.

The 40-year-old author was in town recently to give two talks at the Fringe Club on his literary creations Tik and Tok - a little boy and his dog.

'If you have a love of learning, in general, I think you get interested in the world, people and everything,' the Jamaican-born author said.

'It's not a thought, it's a way of living.'

In The Love Of Learning, Tik and Tok find a door to the Great House of Learning and pass through numerous rooms such as the Room of the Past, the Room of the Future and the Room of Games.

Though the series is written for children, the author says adults will find meaning in it, as the stories border on the philosophical.

Suart came to Hong Kong when he was two. He spent his childhood here and returned to England nine years later.

Influenced by his parents who loved reading and languages, the young Suart developed a passion for books - and drawing. He would spend all his pocket money on books, and would work in the garden for extra money to buy more.

But when he reached his teens, he lost interest in books, and became involved in a rock band.

He did not pick up another book until 1985, the year he returned to Hong Kong to do research for his theatre productions.

From then, his interest in the arts grew, and he wrote, directed and starred in numerous theatre productions.

'I enjoy life much more now because I'm interested in things,' he said.

To illustrate this, history, myth, anthropology and philosophy are just some of the subjects he has sunk his teeth into.

'Young people don't seem to be interested in [anything]. They reject the world of their parents, the authority. It's normal, I suppose,' said Suart, who still plays the guitar.

'When I was young, the older people around me did not try too hard to stop me from messing up.'

While he understands that being rebellious is part of being young, Suart believes there are ways in which teachers and parents can still encourage young people 'to go through adolescence without giving it all up' - and wasting their youth and destroying their future.

'I think it's a problem if young people are not interested in anything,' he said. 'If you're not interested in anything, what will you do?

'Your choices are drink, drugs, sex, fast cars and other dangerous things.'

Through his books and talks, Suart hopes to encourage young people to read and learn.

'Life is difficult. But you still have to try to live positively and fully,' the author said. 'Don't let it get you down, carry on, look for the good things.'

The three Tik and Tok books are available at the Hong Kong Book Fair 2002, now on at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai until July 22.