JUST before the global pandemic hit home Craig Sheather was in the thick of bushfire recovery in East Gippsland.
The Albury travel writer was on his first assignment for the Australian Geographic magazine, uncovering acts of kindness, generosity and courage to come out of the 2019-2020 summer bushfire crisis.
Sheather said he was chronicling the recovery when he met former journalist Kylie Miller, who had lost her orchard, a hobby farm at Wairewa.
"I had written a children's picture book, The Incredible True Story of Sparky the Wonder Puppy, about a puppy's miracle survival during the fires in Victoria's North East," he said.
"I suggested Kylie share similar positive stories about East Gippsland using the stories I was covering for the magazine."
Co-written by Sheather and Miller, Heroes of Black Summer, which aimed to help children process the trauma they experienced during the bushfires, was launched this month.
It was illustrated by Karen Erasmus and published by Australian Geographic with support from a One Good Community Wellbeing Grant through the Gippsland Primary Health Network.
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The book captures moments such as the rescue of endangered species; a pay-it-forward scheme set up by Nowa Nowa General Store; and two brothers who lost their home then built fences as Blaze Aid volunteers.
Miller said it was challenging to condense the number of heroes.
"Many of them had been impacted by fire themselves and their generosity was overwhelming," she said.
Gippsland Primary Health Network executive officer Amanda Proposch hoped the book would provide communities with a helpful resource to manage stress, anxiety and depression to support healing.
The authors will donate 500 copies of the book to children impacted by bushfires, and 25 per cent of proceeds from sales will go to the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund.
Heroes of Black Summer, which was launched at Dymocks Albury on Sunday, and Sparky the Wonder Puppy are available at good bookshops or australiangeographic.com.au/shop.
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