Road test: Lulu the Hong Kong Cat
There was a time when English books for children were produced exclusively in the West, and many little ones grew up reading about literary contexts far removed from their daily lives. Fortunately, the range of books available today not only gives our children a window to the wider world but also represents the realities they are growing up in.
Written and illustrated by Ellen Leou, a Hong Kong-based architect and designer, this is a beautiful publication with a lovely, green, cloth-bound cover and detailed illustrations. When reading the book to my son, I found myself inching our copy away from his little fingers, fearing their potential for smudging and tattering this work of art.
The book tells the tale of a cat and her human friend as they explore the streets of Sham Shui Po in search of Christmas gifts. Lulu starts off Scrooge-like, but after her encounters with characters such as Effortless Effort Monkey and Hawker Hog, she has a change of heart.
It is a simple story, sweetly told. My son is a little young for it, but the detailed illustrations held his attention; his favourite pages featured buses.
Having trawled those very streets myself, I appreciated the quirky authenticity with which they were rendered on the page, from shelves of colourful buttons and ribbons to grumpy shopkeepers and fashionista shoppers. With redevelopment sweeping old districts, their charms are rediscovered in books like these.
It's a toss-up whether this book will remain on my son's bookshelf or be stowed away at his mum's for safekeeping.
Verdict: An ideal Christmas gift for a young reader, a grown-up who hasn't lost touch with their inner child, or as a souvenir of Hong Kong.
Lulu the Hong Kong Cat: Christmas in Sham Shui Po, Big Good Company, HK$186, available from Dymocks and Bookazine: bookazine.com.hk