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From Tragedy to Inspiration: Books that Help Kids Cope with Disaster

Pair of Northern California Moms Who Survived Series of Catastrophic Wildfires Publish Children's Books to Help Other Parents and Kids Cope with Disaster


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23 Aug, 2023, 08:49 ET


Both women now work in disaster response – one as the founder of the nonprofit Volunteer Fire Foundation, the other as a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma



kids cope with disaster


SANTA ROSA, Calif., Aug. 23, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Two mothers from fire-ravaged Sonoma County, California have published trauma-informed children's books to help other families cope with the increasingly common disaster.


Jacqui Jorgeson, author of a new picture book called "Little Buck the Fire Truck," is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Volunteer Fire Foundation and mother to a young son who is all too familiar with wildfire.


"He's four and has already lived through three historic fires," Jorgeson said. "This is a new era. We need tools to help our kids view challenges as opportunities to develop not only resilience but compassion."

Jorgeson launched her organization in early 2020 to support underfunded volunteer firefighters. Eight months later, another mega-fire sparked. Surprisingly, so did her imagination.


"I was delivering supplies to the crew of a 40-year-old fire engine and I remember thinking, 'This isn't a wildland engine, it's a children's book character.'"

That night, she wrote the first draft of a manuscript about a fire engine that must overcome his limitations when wildfire threatens his town.


DiAngelo Publications will release "Little Buck the Fire Truck" August 22 and Jorgeson said she will donate 50% of her portion of profits to VFF.


Living Popups has animated the book in augmented reality, with Emmy-winning actor Richard Schiff voicing the title character.


To access the animation, readers scan a QR code on the back cover and download an app, which allows Little Buck to leap from book to screen.


"My six-year-old doesn't always connect with books, but he was completely captivated by the augmented reality component of 'Little Buck'," said Sonoma County psychologist Dr. Carrie Lara. "It'll be such a great resource to help young children who have lived through wildfire."

kids cope with disaster

Lara is no stranger to children's books – she's published four of them with the American Psychological Association's Magination Press, including "Out of the Fires: A Journal of Resilience and Recovery After Disaster," released last month.


"Out of the Fire" reads like the journal of a ten-year-old boy, complete with drawings and news clippings that reflect his attempts to make sense of his experience as a wildfire survivor.


Lara has seen disaster trauma play out in her clinical work with children and families and in her own home, which she evacuated during the 2017 and 2019 fires.


"The Kincade fire came as close as two blocks and a chicken farm away," she said.

Lara and her husband grabbed prepared go-bags and fled with their two children, cat, and two dogs. It was the first of three times they would evacuate that same night.


"These fires aren't going away," Lara said. "We need to provide our children with not only comfort but real coping strategies. Books like "Out of the Fires" and "Little Buck the Fire Truck," especially with its AR element, are an accessible, effective way to do that."
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