Authors Help A Young Reader Rebuild Her Book Collection After Fire

A few Twitter posts from one person can make a difference, just as one author’s message did for one little girl’s life. Heidi VanSumeren, age 8, loves reading books and making her own books. Now she has all of the reading material she can handle after the kindness of a complete stranger encouraged others to send Heidi some books following a family tragedy.


The Fire

A house fire on March 17, 2016 destroyed all of Heidi’s beloved books. The fire also killed two family pets, and the VanSumerens were lucky to make it out alive. Heidi, in second grade at Parma Elementary School in Parma, Mich., was devastated by the loss of her books. Those books helped the little girl to cope — the family lost one of Heidi’s older sisters, 11-year-old Avery, in 2015. Then, the fire completely destroyed the family’s home. Heidi, however, wouldn’t be without her books for long.

Authors to the Rescue

Children’s author Bob Shea made a planned visit to Heidi’s school on the first day she returned to second-grade classes following the fire. Heidi was chosen to work with Shea because of her love of books. The author found out about her situation through Heidi’s teacher who also writes a children’s literature blog. Shea offered to help, so he posted three tweets for everyone to come to Heidi’s aid. Shea instructed all of his author and illustrator friends to send books to the elementary school.

Bob Shea / Via Facebook

Bob Shea / Via Facebook

Boxes and Boxes of Books

Within three weeks of Shea’s plea, Heidi has received more than 500 books at her school. Many were signed by the authors and illustrators. Complete strangers sent the girl art supplies, a new desk and a bookshelf to foster the girl’s love of making her own books. These gifts of hope arrived from all over the country, all to help one little girl going through a rough time. In a touching “thank you” message to Shea, Heidi says, “I think Mr. Shea and his friends are pretty great.” She borrowed part of that line from Shea’s book “Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great.”

Books have helped this little girl heal thanks to the power of creative words on pages. Here are some other ways other authors get creative and make magic with books.

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