Lyn Hancock - Tabasco The Saucy Raccoon

By Kathy Reilly

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Like a playful otter who's shared her home and been featured in her books, Lyn Hancock slides lightheartedly from one adventure to another, always curious and always fun. Her passion for learning about nature firsthand has led her on many merry expeditions all over the world. Lyn shares her experiences through 19 books and entertains countless groups, of all ages, with her slides, DVDs and personal tales from the past.

Her most recent book release, Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon, has been No. 1 on the B.C. Association of Book Publishers Children's List since 2006. Tabasco, the raccoon, came into Lyn's life as an orphan in 1974. Born in a Kitsilano attic, the tiny fluff ball was handed over for Lyn's loving care. Tabasco, the book, is a good read for adults, too.

Lyn held the story of Tabasco in her heart and in her journals for over 30 years. In the '70s, publishers looked for Disney-like happy endings, while Lyn's intent has always been to tell the truth. The truth helps educate people about the wild creatures that share this province, sometimes living in close proximity to civilization. Tabasco does that and more.

A self-taught writer and photographer, Lyn's formal university degree is in education plus she holds a masters degree in cougars. While teaching at Monterey Elementary School, Lyn and her biologist husband, David Hancock, shared their home and backyard at Island View Beach on the Saanich Peninsula with countless wild creatures. The couple mended broken bones and wings and provided food and protection until the animals were ready to be reintroduced into the wild. Her "foster kids," including cougars, bears, raccoons, otters and seals, accompanied her through city streets, into classrooms and radio and television studios. Today, liability laws preclude that sort of contact with the animals. However, Lyn, with her photos, videos, DVDs and priceless wit, is able to bring the animals to the audience in an entertaining way. Her audiences respond with laughter, enthusiasm and memories of their own.

Originally from Australia, Lyn says, "I must have my grandmother's genes. She [went] to Australia's most remote area in 1899, alone, because her sister backed out just as they were about to board the ship." When Lyn was eight years old, her grandmother started giving her five shillings a week. She saved those shillings to help finance her dream of exploring her family's past in England, her grandmother's birthplace. History repeated itself, when a friend who agreed to accompany her backed out at the last minute. Undaunted, Lyn carried on. Arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, she hitchhiked from Cape Town to Cairo, her first real adventure. An era of civil unrest, being a white female could easily have resulted in catastrophe. Good guides and good sense had her arriving unscathed in Cairo.

After teaching in England for a few years, Lyn decided to fly to the New World to explore the U.S. before heading back to a job teaching university in Australia. While in the States, Lyn mentioned to a group that she would like to visit Norway because she wanted to see the forests and fjords. A gentleman, who was the President of the Vancouver Board of Trade, suggested, "Why not visit the Norway of Canada and come to British Columbia? We have everything that Norway has and we speak English."

So, a chance encounter led to a life exploring the beautiful wilds of British Columbia. For a number of years, Lyn lived in the Far North, but eventually returned to her beloved Vancouver Island. When she isn't travelling, she writes for travel magazines from her oceanfront home in Lantzville in central Vancouver Island. Her small office is purposely set in an area where there are few distractions. Countless journals are filed in upper cabinets and photos, DVDs and file folders surround her computer. When she breaks from her writer's toil, she recharges her batteries by gazing at the amazing vista at her doorstep. Large windows and doors afford a view of the Winchelsea Islands in Nanoose Bay. "Sea otters drop fish on my doorstep," she says. One can picture them gambolling in the snow, sliding down the driveway with abandon and flinging themselves across the lawn before slipping into the ocean. A kayak rests at the edge of beach, ready to transport Lyn to her favourite oyster bed to gather supper. A tour of Lyn's home is like a travelogue: photos of exotic places, souvenirs like tufted-moose artwork and incredible photos of eagles, raccoons, bears, cougars and seals - a life well-lived.

Lyn's love of teaching extends to all ages.

"Books begin in backyards," she says.

Lyn's backyard is an exceptional source of exciting stories for a book, as were her adventures in the wilds.

"You find things in your backyard, literally and factually," she says. "Find what fascinates you. Write about what you know best." Every person has unique experiences that no one else has. "Paint pictures with your words. And tell stories with your pictures. You teach yourself writing by writing."

Like this exuberant adventurer, others can share their unique life with family, friends or the world. Everyone has a little "Tabasco" in his or her heart, waiting to be shared.

Look for Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon at your local bookstore or e-mail Lyn Hancock at To book Lyn as a speaker for your group, call 250-390-9075.

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