By Sofia Jesus

When Bernadette Terra decided she would write a children’s book about Macau, she couldn’t stop. She skipped lunches, put together a team of “labour of love,” invested her money in the printing and made it happen.

The first two books of the series Mak, the City’s Friendly Dragon will be launched tomorrow, Friday, March 10, 6 pm, at Creative Macau. It is a dream come true for Ms Terra, who has “always loved writing and reading,” but never imagined herself becoming an author of children’s books. Well, now she is.

As Ms Terra tells mART, the idea came to her two years ago, inspired by her experience working with children as a Macau nursery teacher and later on as a teacher assistant in The International School of Macau. She was impressed with how children reacted when listening to the stories read by her colleagues. “Inspiration grew.”

She also noticed there was a lack of children’s books “fully about Macau” that could get the kids’ attention.

Mak, the City’s Friendly Dragon is a trilingual (in English, Portuguese and Chinese) series of 13 children’s books. Originally written in English, the stories are all about Macau — its culture, its history and things to do in the city. The figure of Mak, the dragon, is inspired in the colours of Macau’s flag, and there is even a character called Mr Panda, who is a local bus driver in the book.

Throughout the collection, children can see illustrations of Macau places, as well as information about history, local festivities, such as the Dragon Boat Festival, or events, such as the Macau Grand Prix, Ms Terra tells mART. The books are aimed at showcasing the city, and sometimes include characters that are visitors from abroad.

“We hope the community supports these stories,” she says, adding she hopes they will become something Macau proudly looks at as something of its own. She also hopes visitors can enjoy it and take them back home, as a souvenir.

The books target children aged 3 to 10, and stories get “funnier,” “more interesting” and with more information about history as the collection progresses, Ms Terra explains. But she believes children and even adults from any age can enjoy them.

All people involved in the making of the book have worked voluntarily in it — “friends” with “one goal,” as Ms Terra puts it. In addition to the author, originally from the Philippines, the multicultural team is composed of Peruvian artist Natsumi Agrada Kurisaki (illustrator); Isabel Silva Goitia (Portuguese translator and editor); Viviana Chan (Chinese editor); Adele Vickers (English editor); Alice Wong (project coordinator); Exzha Beah Ubogan (page designer); and Peggy Chan and Winny Cheang (Chinese translators). It is a team of “young people,” which even includes three secondary school students, she points out.

Ms Terra did apply last year for financial support from some Macau institutions for the printing of the book, but she did not meet the necessary requirements to get it. “I was so depressed, disappointed,” she recalls. She told her team they couldn’t get the book out yet. But then she couldn’t wait any longer. So, she and her husband went to the bank and decided to invest their own money — “through credit card” — in the printing. And the two first books are finally out.

The books can be bought for 65 patacas tomorrow at the book launch, or by contacting the team through their website or Facebook page. She hopes to reach out to local bookshops in the future. Ten percent of the sales will go to local NGO Macau Child Development Association (MCDA), and other ten percent to Macau Association For Stray Dogs and Animal Welfare (MASDAW).

“It’s not really about the money or getting any profit from the project,” she tells mART. She just wants “to contribute to the society” and create something that “belongs to Macau” and that “Macau can be proud of”.