A NEW book which aims to warn children about the dangers of loan sharks has been launched at a school in Caerphilly.

A Fist Full of Feathers could be read as a story about a struggling duck family who are offered food and bedding from a magpie, but it also has a more serious message.

When the duck family find out they have to pay back four times as much as they borrowed from the magpie, they find themselves in trouble.

The 35-page picture book aimed at children aged seven to 11-years-old was launched by PETRA Publishing at Ty Sign Primary School in Risca on Thursday.

The book, funded by The Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit from proceeds of crime, is set to be distributed to schools across Caerphilly and will also be available from all libraries in the county borough.

Michelle Jones, of PETRA Publishing and co-ordinator at Parent Network in Caerphilly, said the book aims to help break the cycle of families borrowing from loan sharks in Ty Sign, Caerphilly.

Working with families who are struggling financially, Parent Network and PETRA Publishing said they have witnessed a lot of loan shark activity in Ty Sign which has 'crippling' effects on families.

"The message of the book is to try and break that cycle of borrowing from loan sharks," said Mrs Jones.

"What we find is if the grandparents borrowed then that's the way the family will do it.

"It's often okay when it's smaller amount of money, but when they are borrowing larger sums that is when there are problems."

Mrs Jones said it is important to educate children about the issue to try and break the cycle.

The book has been launched to raise awareness about the issue ahead of January, when families may be tempted to borrow from loan sharks.

It encourages planning ahead and using credit unions such as Smart Money Cymru Credit Union in Caerphilly instead of borrowing from loan sharks - illegal lenders who often target low income families, often resulting in high repayment rates.

Mike Church, storyteller at PETRA Publishing, came to launch the book at an assembly at Ty Sign Primary School.

Head teacher Alison Dacey said the book makes a difficult subject easier to understand.

She said: "The concept of loan sharks could be a frightening one for the children but the assembly created a safe environment for the children to learn and discuss the subject."

"It made a difficult subject much more easy to understand."