BERNIE BURN. Sarah Cruz. With Christopher Cruz. Illustrated by Sarah Cruz. Little Boots Publishing.

By John Aiello

When you have a small child around the house, danger is literally lurking around every corner. Aside from choking, one of the most serious threats to a youngster come in the form of hot objects -- in a mere matter of seconds, one burn can alter a life forever.

Sarah Cruz, a Registered Nurse who resides with her family in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, learned this the hard way in 2001, after her infant daughter, Azurae, suffered a second-degree burn subsequent to an encounter with a blistering-hot oven door.

Once their child recuperated, the Cruzes decided their scare should serve as a wake-up call for parents and toddlers everywhere. To this end, they went to work and launched Little Boots Publishing and created Bernie Burn - a interesting and creative children’s book meant to educate tots and their caregivers on ways to prevent burn injuries.

"Some things in a child’s life cannot be controlled or prevented," notes Sarah Cruz on the Little Boots Web site. "But some things are preventable -- like burn injuries. Each year 250,000 children in the U.S. are seriously burned, 200,000 of them by contact with hot substances and objects. Through our own personal experience, we learned that it’s never too early to begin protecting your child in the home and teaching them about burn injury prevention."

And this, then, cuts to the core of Bernie Burn -- a storybook focused on toddlers ages 6 months to four years written and illustrated by Cruz and her husband, Christopher. More than anything, Bernie Burn provides the very young with a road map of dangers that hide in a house -- an attempt through words and pictures to steer tiny hands away from things that could sear through skin and cause a serious burn. Cruz writes:

"Baby Rae doesn’t want to sit and play anymore. She’s curious and wants to explore. Mommy tells baby Rae, ‘The Stove is hot! Bernie Burn! He’s not cool. Don’t touch Bernie Burn, or you’ll get a boo boo!’"

The Cruzes have done a very imaginative job here, first creating a believeable narrative and then marrying it to well-honed illustrations that children will readily identify with - the images springing to life and striking interest in the mind of the young reader. The text is augmented by a pediatric First-Aid Guide for burns/scalds, as well as hints for helping your child avoid serious injury in the kitchen. Finally, as an added attraction, the Cruzes have included blank images at the end of the text which children can color themselves, in turn refreshing the young reader’s mind on the lessons they’ve just learned.

Like the Captain Kangaroo show of yesteryear, Bernie Burn makes a fun ride out of the necessity of teaching your child about life-threatening dangers around the house. Further, instead of turning the task into a lecture, the Cruzes have chosen to make it an event that parents and children can experience together through a storybook hour - the pictures and true-to-life plot-line meant to make children see what they are not to touch.

Bernie Burn is recommended to all parents of children one to five years old, and should be shared as parent reads through the book page-by-page with the youngster. This selection would further be a useful teaching tool in pre-school classes a means to address dangers in the home.

Courtesy of John Aiello and The Electric Review.  2005. All rights reserved. (October 2005)

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