Storied creatures

North Shore artist and author Patrick Ching is known for his breathtaking paintings and inspiring children stories. Now, he seeks to teach readers about the lives of Honu the turtle, Hina the monk seal and the importance of living together. 

His new book is called “Honu and Hina: A Story of Coexistence.” 

“I grew up in Hawaii my whole life. I’ve been familiar with sea turtles, never ever saw a monk seal when I was growing up or thought I’d ever see one in real life cause they didn’t come around the main islands in those days,” Ching said. “I wrote this book to make people — especially the young kids — aware of what’s happening, especially because they’re going to be the future decision makers and they’re going to be dealing with the issues of coexistence with animals like turtles and seals.”

Ching’s story tells the tale of Hina, the first recorded monk seal to be born on Kauai, and of her friendship with the turtle Honu. Together, these seafaring friends encounter people using the beach, who have never seen a monk seal before. As they see Hina and Honu, the two people go on a quest to learn more about the sea friends. 

The book features colorful artwork painted by art students and their parents in addition to real pictures of monk seals and turtles taken during the early and late 1900s. 

The book also includes interesting facts about turtles and monk seals, such as how monk seals like to snuggle up against things — a fact that Ching discovered firsthand. 

“When I was a wildlife ranger, actually my first time, we set up our tent at Laysan Island and I thought, ‘Oh, what a beautiful night. I’m going to sleep outside,’” Ching said. “So I fell asleep outside and I woke up to a huge monk seal ‘hulumphing’ next to me and snorting. I was nervous, but the seal wasn’t nervous; it just kind of slept right there next to me. I did a nice ‘try not to get noticed’ roll out of there and went back inside the tent and slept.”

Since he graduated from high school, Ching has been writing coloring books on Hawaiian wildlife which evolved into story and reference books such as “Sea Turtles of Hawaii” and “The Hawaiian Monk Seal.” 

“It began because I was so interested in animals that I volunteered to be working with animals in the forest or the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” Ching said.

Ching has learned much about the sea creatures on his journey, which is why he believes in the importance of friendly coexistence. 

“The monk seals and sea turtles were heavily hunted throughout history. We know from a lot of captain’s records and photographs, they used to have seal and turtle expeditions to hunt turtles and seals, so they actually thought they had wiped out the Hawaiian monk seal at some point,” Ching said. “I wrote ‘Honu and Hina’ because we’re in a unique situation now that we’ve never been in before, where these animals that have had their numbers cut down so low are now coming around people again, and with that causes some excitement. It also causes some conflict and potential danger.” 

The books may be purchased at Patrick Ching’s Gallery and at the Kilauea lighthouse.

Patrick Ching will host a book release, autograph session at the Kilauea lighthouse from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

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