2021 | Family, Health

Processing wildfire trauma

Mabel and the Fire book

Mabel and the Fire helps children process their experiences with natural disasters, in this case the loss of a home to a forest fire. Photo: Ashley Potter

Mabel, the pup, helps children make sense of their fears, sadness and loss

When Roseburg author Alison Hinson published her children’s book Mabel and the Fire, she had no idea how quickly it would become relevant in her home county. The brightly illustrated tale of how a dog named Mabel and her boy navigated the loss of their home in a forest fire was published in May 2020. Just four months later, Douglas County, along with several Oregon and California counties suffered devastating wildfire losses.

The book was written to help children process their experiences with natural disasters, in this case the loss of a home that forced Mabel and her family to flee their home and take refuge in a shelter.

The simple words of loss experienced by the dog gives voice to the same feelings felt by the boy. Hinson’s technique of emphasizing emotion-laden words helps identify the feelings that young children may experience, allowing them to be discussed and processed.

Mabel hoped the fire would not come closer to the house, but it did. Mabel’s family packed up the clothes and toys that would fit in the car. They had to hurry. Mabel felt very sad and confused about leaving her house and toys behind.

The book can be used to support families, social services workers, natural disaster relief groups and therapists in helping children share and express their own thoughts and feelings of loss and displacement due to fire.

“Such a timely book in light of the recent wildfires and so many Oregon families being displaced,” said one reader recently. “This book helps children identify their feelings and lets them know it’s okay to be angry and scared. It also reassures them that, although things may never be the same again, they can get better.”

“This book was moving and really touches the heart with its message of being able to have so many feelings around multitudes of change and disaster,” said another reader. “But also that it is okay to move on and be thankful for what you do have.”

And what about Mabel? After moving into a new house, her story ends with a sense of hope:

So even though things weren’t exactly the same anymore, Mabel was still a very happy dog. She had a nice home, a boy who loved her, and her favorite chew toy that she played with every day.

A reader’s review of ‘Mabel and the Fire’

Five Stars

Bless this therapist! We’ve lived through a wildfire and also have wildland firefighters in our family. I read this book to our 4-year-old and was amazed at the questions he had about it. I had no idea some of the things being processed about fire, smoke and losses in that little brain. The book was simple and brought enough detail to hint at the scariness without dwelling in it or glorifying it. Perfect tone. Helpful.

Mabel and the Fire
SELECTBOOKS: Mabel and the Fire

You can order a copy of Mabel and the Fire for free through The Ford Family Foundation’s SelectBooks website.

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