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The Survival Series

Tuula Pere Author Interview

Saved from the Flames follows a young girl and her family who have lost everything to a house fire. The little girl relies on the kindness of others to help her through this emotional time. What was the inspiration for your story?

I wrote “Saved from the Flames” and the other two books of my Survival Stories Series soon after the tragedies that Nepalese people faced in the massive 2015 earthquake. This dramatic period of challenges for the nation had immense consequences, causing emotional and material losses. A lot had to be built and repaired – and the work continues.

“Saved from the Flames” is a disaster on a family scale, and it could happen anywhere without a connection to any community scale event. In this story, I have also mixed elements from events I have heard about from acquaintances or experienced myself. For example, the detail about friends collecting a photo album of memories for the suffering family is influenced by a real-life situation. As a teen, I was once close to losing my home to a house fire.

Perhaps the most important general reason behind this story is that adults too often overlook children’s experiences in the middle of significant events. We focus on the practical arrangements of things, their monetary value, and their busy schedules. I am not underestimating the importance of these things, as they are often the basis of survival in the short term. But somehow, we must find the human touch, the ability to look at the situation through the children’s eyes and understand their feelings.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

When something shocking happens, the first attention is naturally paid to survival on the material level. At the level of urgent action, the mental state of the people involved in the event is often left behind. People don’t always recognize and acknowledge the challenges of the mental side at once, but they can only appear with a delay.

“Saved from the Flames” reveals these patterns, too. Initially, the characters turn their attention to the burnt house and the lost goods. People start to question if the fire was an accident or, instead, somebody’s fault in the first place. Hearing parents argue about this topic is challenging for the confused and insecure child. She would need an entirely different kind of support. The child’s position and experiences are the essential themes in this fairy tale. After all, my attempt is always to defend the weakest in every situation.

The importance of material frameworks of life – such as the house and belongings – is naturally needed for the family’s safety. However, the most crucial thing in a crisis is to act together with others and take and give help. In this book, the cooperation of the village community is in an important role. The actions of individual people can also be decisive. The teacher and the doctor in the story are a valuable help to a shaken child. Faith in the future is gradually built with the support of these understanding adults. Of course, the return of a pet dog is also a happy event with great significance, reminding us that there are many kinds of helpers!

What advice would you offer to families going through this kind of situation to help children cope?

Losing a physical home and all the dear belongings connected to it is a challenging experience for children. Their thoughts emphasize slightly different things than those troubling the adult minds. The little ones hardly think about the financial value of the losses. For them, losing their favorite toys can be a crushing thought that overshadows everything else. It helps if adults understand this and under no circumstances belittle the children’s feelings.

The experience of a severe accident, like a fire, shakes people’s sense of security. We can also keep thinking about what could have happened to our loved ones. This matter about losing family members or other dear persons may be so sensitive that we cannot talk about it. Whether this fear is said out loud or left unsaid, we must be able to deal with it with the child.

We need to remember that the child’s injuries are not always visible and on the surface. They may occur deep inside and take a long time to heal. The supporting adults must listen to even unsaid words – and be patient. Restoring a child’s sense of security may take longer than we adults can imagine.

Every family and every individual is different. That’s why the means to solve difficult situations are also individual. In addition to family members, you can also rely on relatives and friends who have the ability and desire to participate in helping. Professional help may also come into question. The most important thing is that the children can find a support network around them and be sure they are never left alone with their problems!

What is the next book in the Survival Stories series that you are working on, and when will it be available?

The Survival Series already has three books: Traveling Companions, Saved from the Flames, and The Owl and the Shepherd Boy. They are all available in several languages in international web bookstores.

There may be sequels to the series. The world is full of individual minor events or even disasters affecting the wider community, where people are trying to cope on various levels. It’s helpful to write about individuals’ difficulties and challenges and ponder how to tackle them. As the interaction between people in such situations is vital, it’s essential to point out possibilities for helping and cooperation.

My particular focus as a mother and author is on children’s experiences. How do they best survive and understand what is going on around them? And that’s not at all easy in this big and busy world. Sometimes I start to doubt my possibility to influence, especially in the most extensive scale events – such as natural disasters, accidents, or wars.

But then I return to this main thing: listening to the child and giving comfort and support in every possible way. I have chosen to write stories for the little ones, especially those in challenging situations. It’s all about the mental shelter and encouragement that children’s literature at its best can provide.

Author Links: Facebook | Website

Little Sunita and her family are trying to start a new life after a terrible fire. Their home and possessions–including all of Sunita’s schoolbooks and toys–burned to ashes in the blaze. Worst of all, their puppy Taro is missing.
Sunita’s parents are busy building their new home, and no one has time to listen to Sunita’s worries. But she is lucky enough to have an observant teacher, who comes to her aid. The teacher takes Sunita to meet her doctor friend and she teaches Sunita how to knit a new sleep toy to replace the missing one.
Sunita learns that you can be wounded not only on the outside but also beneath the surface. Fortunately, both can heal.

Saved From the Flames

Young Sunita and her family have lost all their possessions in a house fire. As well as lost their beloved dog Taro. The story opens with Sunita living with relatives nearby, where her family home has burned down while the parents and neighbors rebuild. This story spans over a few weeks as the rebuilding is happening and follows Sunita through her depression and struggle over this traumatic event. Can things be rebuilt when things seem hopeless?

Saved from the Flames by Tuula Pere is a story with a profound message of rebuilding not only from physical tragedies or traumas but also internally, emotionally, and mentally. After the fire, Sunita is clearly being affected internally by what was lost. The home wasn’t filled with gems or jewels but was a modest home filled with things that held priceless meaning to herself and her family. Add on top of that, her parents argue and blame one another instead of comforting each other and caring emotionally for Sunita. Leaving her feeling detached, abandoned, and isolated.

What the author does well in this children’s book is properly convey to young readers in a simplistic way a rather deep and sometimes emotionally overwhelming real-life trauma. I love that the author knew how to incorporate the sense of community with the neighbors helping rebuild their home by donating their time and supplies. Also, the importance of family and being there for one another through the good and especially the bad times. The author also made an amazing choice by bringing in help from teachers and doctors because sometimes those people can be intimidating to children or someone they wouldn’t even think to ask for help from. I feel the author has a great sense of what it takes to heal inside after trauma, as well as the kind of outside help that is needed as well.

Pages: 16 | ASIN : B07HYW4C3S

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