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Alumna’s Harvey children’s book hits shelves this week

Alumna UH harvey book Alumna and local teacher Aurora González de Freire wrote the children's book "Harvey Bear Gets Rescued" after being convinced by her students to get her idea published.  | Courtesy of Aurora González de Freire

Alumna and local teacher Aurora González de Freire wrote the children’s book “Harvey Bear Gets Rescued” after Hurricane Harvey. Her students convinced her to get the story published.  | Courtesy of Aurora González de Freire

In the midst of Hurricane Harvey, a University of Houston alumna felt compelled to reach for her sketchbook and start drawing. A year later, what began as a story to comfort her students has culminated in her first published book.

Aurora González de Freire, a local teacher and 2003 master’s graduate of UH’s College of Education, wrote “Harvey Bear Gets Rescued,” which is currently No. 1 in the Amazon’s Children’s Disaster Preparedness category. In the beginning, she simply saw it as a way to reach out to students suffering from the aftermath of the storm.

“I knew my students’ neighborhoods had been decimated,” González said. “I eventually understood that this was the story I was going to tell them to help them heal.”

After showing them her sketches and telling them the story, her students liked it so much they pushed her to get it published. During trips to the school library, they would even search out different publishers she could contact.

“They told me ‘No copies, we want a book. This is our story’,” González said.

“Harvey Bear Gets Rescued” incorporates bilingual text. Traditionally, one page would have an illustration while the other would have the two translations of the story. This book features full spread illustrations with the text in opposite corners. This choice arose from González wanting her bilingual students to be able to share the story with their parents.

“A lot of their parents are acquiring English, but they’re not fluent enough to read them the story yet,” González said.

González feels multiculturalism is an important part of Houston, something undeniable after seeing all the citizens come together during the storm, she said. González made sure to ask her illustrator, Susan Krupp, to incorporate diversity into the artwork, as she feels that first responders and meteorologists are something children of all groups should aspire to be.

Krupp, a Canadian illustrator González met through her publisher AuthorSource, was enthusiastic to be part of this tribute to the people of Houston, González said.

“Aurora’s passion for spreading hope mirrors my own,” Krupp said, “and this story is a true reflection of both the struggle and tenacity of the human spirit.”

Krupp’s belief that children need to be aware of obstacles in life drove her work on this project. Only three days after her first conversation with González, Krupp had 10 full illustrations ready. Two weeks later, she had finished the artwork needed for the book, a dream come true for González after she had considered shelving the idea for the book just a few months earlier.

“I had gotten ‘no’ after ‘no’ after ‘no,'” González said. “Then at 11:30 one night, I sent a text to somebody asking about a publisher. They messaged me right back saying ‘AuthorSource’.”

González contacted the company and arranged a meeting with its president. He gave her 30 minutes to pitch the idea.

“Aurora happened upon our Facebook page and contacted us from there,” said Beth Lottig, COO of AuthorSource. “We were immediately smitten by her passion for the book and the much needed message about surviving hurricanes.”

Children who are faced with different types of hardships are more resilient than we realize, said College of Education professor Teresa Edgar.

“When adults intentionally use books to help children cope with adversity, the children are able to understand and work through their issues and feelings when connections are made with the characters of the story.” Edgar said.

While she has managed to get the book published, she is looking for help from fellow Cougars and corporate sponsorships to give 75 copies to her students.

“Harvey Bear Gets Rescued” was released Thursday and is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

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