Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (August 18, 2016)
It’s always a joy and delight to support local artists and this week, I have the pleasure of recommending a book by a local author and illustrator, Libby Lam. Her first book, Checklisted Beauty, was an award winning book that talks about a 10-year old girl who learns that beauty is not just about outward appearance but about inward confidence and the ability to embrace one’s own uniqueness.
Her newest book, ‘My Best Friend Sunny’, follows a similar thread in empowering girls and encourages them to embrace themselves confidently. It is a beautifully illustrated book that depicts the growing friendship of two girls - Azure and Sunny. They go from being classmates, friends, best friends to partners in a charitable cause.
Azure meets the new girl in her class, Sunny, and is intrigued by her. Sunny is talented in many ways – in Math, in sports, in poetry, in Science – and all the while, she stays helpful and humble.
But what Azure later finds out is that Sunny’s name is actually spelt ‘S-O-N-N-Y’ because her parents actually wanted to have a son, and not a daughter.
It’s a heartbreaking phenomenon that happens in our culture and is magnified in other ones. When I tell people that I’m about to have a baby boy, some have said “you must be so happy to have a boy” and I just honestly reply that gender doesn’t matter to me. But there are so many people, especially in our Chinese culture, who still prefer to have a ‘precious son’.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon is magnified in other countries, especially developing ones where having a boy isn’t just about carrying the family name but about being able to work for the family in earning more money. Girls are cast aside or even discarded when boys are valued and seen as treasures. This shouldn’t be the case and this book, ‘My Best Friend Sunny’, shows that girls are talented, should be confident in who they are and can make a difference.
In the book, Sunny and Azure work together to raise money for a meaningful campaign to help girls in underprivileged nations receive an education. This campaign is not just part of the story in the book but is an actual campaign that the author is supporting. The ‘Because I Am A Girl’ campaign launched by Plan International is a global campaign to raise awareness of the inequality that girls face and to raise money to support girls receive an education. Their research has shown that educating a girl can not only change her destiny, but the destiny of her family and community. When a girl in a developing nation is given an education and funds, it is likely that she uses that to benefit her own family and to contribute to her own community; when the same is given to a boy, it is more likely that he goes into the city to continue to earn a living, sometimes leaving his family behind. And a girl without an education is likely to be sold into slavery or subjected to child marriage – both devastating and tragic for the girl and her community.
In the same way that Azure and Sunny use their talents in raising money to help these girls in their plight, we all can do the same. This book will empower girls to see their worth, appreciate their own abilities and inspire them to make a difference.
‘My Best Friend Sunny’ comes out in September 2016 – check out your local bookstore for this latest release. For more information about the ‘Because I Am A Girl’ campaign and how you can get involved, visit Plan International’s website at www.plan.org.hk