Local Children’s Book Teaches Resilience
By Julie Horner
Jackie Hendricks remembers leaving early in the afternoon of August 18, 2020 when it started raining ash. “The news said the wind will blow it away,” so Hendricks went to her mother’s with only an overnight bag thinking it was going to be over soon. An English teacher at Santa Clara University facing Fall Quarter with nothing but the clothes on her back, she was allowed to return home with a Sheriff escort to retrieve more clothes, toys, bags of baby clothes, and the balloon she’d just gotten for her son’s birthday just four days away. It was the handful of tree professionals and hard-scrabble volunteers who refused to leave, the “Boulder Boys” as they’re known locally, who cut a line that stopped the fire short of her home on one of a twisted network of mountain roads called “The Acorns” in Boulder Creek.
The idea for Hendricks’ book, Albert’s Ashes: A Peacock’s Tail, came while “doom scrolling” on social media during the CZU fire evacuation. “One day there was a news story about Albert that someone had posted,” she said. Albert is an albino peacock who lives free in Boulder Creek, choosing quiet backyards to roost, strutting nonchalantly along secluded neighborhood byways. Unable to be caught and rescued during the CZU fire evacuation, Albert was left to his own devices. The book follows Albert as he begins helping firefighters put down the blaze to save the mountain town.
Beautiful illustrations of Albert tackling challenges in familiar locations in Boulder Creek amplify the stories. “Linda Curtis did the wonderful paintings for the book,” Hendricks said. Madeleine Kemeny did the layout. The book will appeal to youngsters preschool through the early grades. “Kids like to see their own town in the book. And there are some big Albert fans,” she said. “The littlest ones like the firefighters, and they know who Albert is. They’re still trying to process what happened during the fire and evacuation.” Hendricks said Albert’s Ashes: A Peacock’s Tail has also been well received outside of the area as a tool to help youngsters learn about resilience.
“It’s been nonstop for two years now,” Hendricks said. With over 300 copies sold by word of mouth and social media, the PhD Medievalist, Chaussarian, and Director of Medieval and Renaissance Studies said, “My other published writing is mostly academic. I don’t know where this book came from. It’s been my secret identity.”
Albert’s Ashes: A Peacock’s Tail can be found in the Santa Cruz County Libraries, at the Boulder Creek Parks and Recreation afterschool program, and in local school libraries and classrooms. You can find it in stock at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum and online. All proceeds from the sale of the book go toward local volunteer fire departments. You can also find Albert’s Ashes merchandise including the book, mugs, t-shirts, and art at albertsashes.com.
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Photos contributed by Jackie Hendricks