York environment campaigner and expert Gary Haq is taking his message to the next generation with his first children's book, reports MAXINE GORDON

DR Gary Haq is more used to putting together a research paper than writing a children's novel – but that is exactly what he's been up to for the past six years.

Besides doing his day job on how to save the planet, he has crafted a story for eight-year-olds – to encourage them to try to save the planet.

My Dad the Earth Warrior will be published on Tuesday – June 5 – to coincide with World Environment Day.

It tells the story of Hero who sets out on an adventure to save his gran who has been kidnapped. Dad joins in the mission, but in the guise of an "earth warrior" – a persona he has adopted since banging his head in an accident. The villain of the story is an energy tycoon determined to frack under the local recreation ground.

Although posted abroad for the past two years, Gary has lived in York for 20 years and worked with the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York. He is returning to York this month, where he has a house, with his wife Heidi and daughter Arabella, aged six.

It was just after Arabella was born that he began writing the book – his first work of fiction. But the real prompt came when he discovered an old school report.

"After my mum died, we went through an old patent leather bag of my nana's which held all the family documents. I found a primary school report that said 'Gary has an interest in writing stories'. I thought: that's true – and I've never really done anything with it. That was the impetus. When my daughter was born, I would dance around the room with her trying to come up ideas."

He adds: "People say write what you know. So I decided to write about the environment and make it interesting."

The book is a proper read – at around 250 pages, split into short, attention-grabbing chapters. The book has been self published, but Gary says he has worked with some of the best people in the field to make it as high-quality as possible, including leading designers and editors.

The pages come to life with words bursting out of the page in bold, graphic type and the characters are colourfully imagined by illustrator Mark Beech on the front cover.

Gary admits it has been about the hardest thing he has ever done – and totally different to academic writing.

"The hardest part is that it is so subjective. When you write something in science, it is either right or wrong. You correct it and it is approved. This is more like a painting – some people will like it, some will not. Once I accepted that, it was fine!"

The adventure story unfolds at the same time as a series of environmental issues, says Gary. The story begins in a heatwave, and there is flooding too – then the fight to stop fracking at the local rec.

He says children will be able to relate to many of these issues. He particularly wanted to write a novel with an eco theme aimed at younger readers because books with an environmental undercurrent were often for older teens, and tended to have a dystopian flavour and be rather negative.

"This is a funny story, set in an environmental context and addressing environmental issues. I hope to inspire children to think about the environment beyond the page."

My Dad the Earth Warrior by Gary Haq (£8.99) is available to order from Waterstones online and to buy from Amazon