After devestating fire, Evergreen students hope children's book will teach kids about fire safety

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Students in Sean Fishbacks creative writing class read a copy of The Fire Book the childrens book the class wrote to raise money for the American Red Cross.Hillsboro may have been battling flurries of snow this week, but all students at Evergreen Middle School can think about is fire.

This month, the school published "The Fire Book," a children's book about the importance of fire safety, written by students in the school's creative writing class.

"There aren't many people who can say they published their first book at age 12 or 14," said Evergreen eighth grader Karma Elven.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The Fire Book is available on Amazon for $15. Students say the book is the first of many they hope to write in their lives.Students wrote and illustrated the 32-page book last year. The book went on sale Feb. 1 on Amazon.

"Everything was totally done by the kids," said teacher Sean Fishback, who taught the class last year and spearheaded the project.

The book is about a dragon, who is born from a spark and soon grows large enough to eat a house.

Sometimes dragons are helpful, the book says, and can keep your family warm at night, and help cook meals, but when dragons grow too big, the creatures become unwieldy,

"The dragon represents the fire," said student and co-author Andy Graves, 14.

The book describes ways young children can be careful around dragons, such as listening to smoke detectors and having evacuations plans in case of fire.

No bad ideas

The idea for the book was sparked in the car, Fishback said. He was driving with his daughter, Jubilee, when a firetruck sped past them.

"Daddy," she asked, "do you think firefighters would fight dragons?"

The unusual question got Fishback thinking.

"I don't know," he said, "but I'd love to write that book,"

That same week, the school learned that an Evergreen student lost their home in a fire, Fishback said. Students in Fishback's class wanted to give something back, and decided to write the book in the family's honor. Proceeds from the book will be donated to the American Red Cross, which works with families after devastating fires.

"This way, we can help other families that find themselves in this situation," Fishback said.

Learning about fire safety is important, but the authors wanted to present the information to young children in a different way than they had been taught, said student Arturo LaPorte.

"Most kids aren't dying to read the instruction pamphlet," he said.

Fellow co-author Bethany Lince agreed.

"We wanted to talk about fire safety in a fun way," she said. "It's not boring, like a textbook ... We didn't want the book to be super-scary for kids, either."

The seventh- and eighth-grade students worked on the book together, coming up with ideas and working out issues.

"We talked about everything," said student Megan McGrory. "We even talked about what color the dragon should be."

There were no bad ideas, Graves said.

With 17 authors behind the book, teacher Alex Berger said the class needed to compromise on a lot of its ideas.

"It took a while to reach consensus and compromise in the way that the kids needed to, but it was really fun," he said. "We had a lot of great discussions."

'My favorite class'

The book was finished in early May last year, and Fishback worked with local publishing house Believe in Wonder Publishing to get the book printed.

Students got to see printed copies of the book for the first time last week.

Evergreen eighth-grader Priyanka Kumar said she is proud of the book her class worked so hard on.

"It's so cool, we put a lot of hard work into it, and it's so great to finally see the final product," she said.

Fishback said the first $1,000 in the book's proceeds will go to the Red Cross. Any other money the book raises will go toward future writing projects for the class.

"If we could pay a publisher to come and talk to the kids about how the publishing world works, or how to write a good story, I think that would be pretty cool," Fishback said.

The book has already been a hit around the school. Librarian Cathy Farley purchased five copies of the book, three for the school's library and two for herself.

"It's really neat to see this," Farley said. "The book is so simple, but it says so much. It's all about being prepared, which is something all kids need to be. They need to know what to do in case of a fire."

Graves said the class has inspired him to become a writer.

"This was definitely my favorite class," he said. "I feel so professional, which is weird, but I made a book."

Many of the students said they planned to continue their writing careers.

"I definitely have plans to keep writing," Graves said. "I really love writing, and this class was the gateway for that. It was definitely the highlight of my seventh-grade year. I wish I could go back and take it again."

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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