Lee Wardlaw knows what it’s like to see your childhood go up in flames. Now the Santa Barbara author is collecting books to give Paradise students a way cope with the trauma
“I can relate to them … writing and reading helped me through that experience,” said Ms. Wardlaw who lost her childhood in the 1977 Sycamore Canyon fire.
She was in college at the time, but the incident led her to write her first book, “Corey’s Fire,” to capture the perspective of her then 14-year-old brother who was living at home at the time. The book was published in 1990.
Since then Ms. Wardlaw has published another 28 books and made a number of connections within the publishing industry along the way.
So when the Camp Fire destroyed seven Paradise elementary schools, a junior high school and severely damaged a high school with smoke in early November, Ms. Wardlaw knew she wanted to help.
She enlisted the help of authors, agents and publishers from across the state and what began as a small collection of autographed books from friends grew to a stockpile of more than 1,300 books worth an estimated $15,000.
“I was surprised and thrilled by the response. I never thought I would get this many and more are still coming in,” said Ms. Wardlaw who plans to haul the books up to Paradise by truck in February.
The Paradise Unified School District is currently holding classes at schools in neighboring districts. Ms. Wardlaw said they expect to have temporary facilities set up sometimes in February.
Until then she is storing the donated books in her Santa Barbara home.
“Reading is a wonderful oasis for children. It allows them to step out of real life for a little bit. I think we all have fond memories of reading, whether it’s a story from mom or making new friends. It reminds of family and togetherness.”
Ms. Wardlaw said several local authors have sent in brand-new autographed copies of their latest books including Wendelin van Draanen, author of the “Sammy Keyes” children’s mystery series, and Bruce Hale, author of novels including “Chet Gecko Mysteries,” “The Monstertown Mysteries,” and “Clark the Shark.”
Other donations include classic children’s books, picture books and young adult novels. The new books will help replace those in the libraries lost to the fire.
To donate a new or gently used book, contact Ms. Wardlaw firstname.lastname@example.org.
Genres of need include nonfiction, biographies and collections of poetry.