Bernie Burn Helps Tots Avoid Hot Spots

The book, for children 6 months and older, was created by a local couple

By Alisha A. Pina, Journal Staff Writer - February 7, 2005 (February 7, 2005)

PAWTUCKET- Four years ago, a member of the Cruz family became a burn statistic:

Azurae, just a few days shy of her first birthday, touched a hot oven door, sustaining a second-degree burn on her left hand.

Sarah and Christopher Cruz, nursed their only daughter’s wounds, as most parents would.  Yet they also viewed the injury as an opportunity to help others.

The couple wrote and illustrated a children’s book, Bernie Burn, about burn prevention.  They also established their own publishing company, Little Boots Publishing, to release and market the book.

“Having knowledge of the many dangers that could harm children, a lot of parents and caregivers go to great lengths to ensure that they are safe and feel safe,” writes Sarah Cruz, 40, former visiting nurse, on the company’s website.

“Still, in spite of their efforts, sometimes accidents can and do happen,” she said.

"Some things in a child’s life cannot be controlled or prevented; like certain childhood illnesses, temper tantrums, those terrible tears, and of course, their unpredictable behavior.  But some things are preventable, like burn injuries.”

Each year, 250,000 children are seriously burned in the United States – 200,000 of them by contact with hot objects or substances, Cruz said.  She said children younger than 4 are especially vulnerable to burns from objects inside the home.

Bernie Burn uses the title character- a glowing flame figure with raised eyebrows, red eyes, and a sinister grin – to highlight dangerous places in the kitchen.

“The interesting part is, I’ve never drawn a day in my life, but I pulled it together for this one,” Cruz said during a recent book signing at Barrington Books.

In her illustrations, Bernie Burn is shown poking out of the faucet or pots on the stove, and inside a coffee cup on the kitchen table. 

Cruz’s drawings also show a little girl crying after an encounter with Bernie Burn who says, “Ah ha! Gotcha! Tsssssss!”

The book’s first lines are:  Bernie Burn is hot.  He’s not cool.  Don’t touch Bernie Burn or you’ll get a boo boo.”

The plot follows Azurae’s actual incident, including the way the family created a “no zone” in certain parts of the kitchen afterward.  The zone is clearly marked with colored tape on the floor.

The 37-page book is geared for children ages 6 months to 4 years, said Cruz, because it “is never too early to educate kids.”  It encourages parents to read to children, as well as including pages to color, burn-prevention tips, and ways to immediately treat a burn.

The Little Boots Publishing Website has additional information, including links to more than a dozen sites of organizations for burn survivors or burn prevention, such as Peoples Burn Foundation and the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation.

The Cruzes became familiar with these organizations while promoting Bernie Burn.  Some of the groups purchased books to use in their own programs.; the National Safe Kids Campaign received 350 books to distribute.

Cruz said the first run was for 5,000 copies; about half of those remain.  She has promoted the book with appearances at Barrington Books, the Community College of RI, the Baby and Me Trade Show in Warwick Last August, and several Babies “R” Us stores.  She has also done book readings at several area preschools.

The experience has been more rewarding than she ever could have imagined, Cruz said, especially her meetings with all the people she’s encountered along the way.

“Usually, everywhere I go, people have a story,” she said.  “One inspiring woman, Jena- she’s 25 now – pulled a deep fryer over her head when she was 1.  She had third-degree burns.”

Forty-five percent of her body was burned, according to information on Jena’s own website, and she had to have several surgeries as a child, to receive skin grafts and tissue expanders to reconfigure parts of her face and body.  Visible scars still remain on her head and face.

Jena writes on her site, “I may have looked a little different growing up, but I made myself fit in and be a normal as can be.”

Now she write, her life is “perfect.”

“It’s more serious burns (like Jena’s) that we’re trying to prevent,” Cruz said.  “Bernie Burn was meant to be, and we’re hoping it will help children remember some of the dangerous places around the kitchen to help keep them safe.”

Anyone interested in buying a single copy of the book, or large quantities, can order from - website of the Cruzes’ Publishing company – or can visit Barrington Books. 

To contact Alisha Pina, phone (508) 674-8401 or email

© 2019 Little Boots Publishing