The creator of the popular Grug books for children, Ted Prior, thought he had written his last book in the series until the 2019 NSW bushfires changed everything.
The author/illustrator evacuated his Killabakh home in early November 2019 seeking refuge with family in Newcastle.
He's very glad he left when he did.
"I couldn't see 50 metres in front of me the smoke was so bad," Ted said.
"I'm 75 now and too old to fight a fire. There was no power, no phone and only water in buckets.
"I had no idea where the fire was."
Fortunately Ted, who had mentally prepared himself for losing his home of 16 years, was lucky.
The day after the fire ripped through the tiny community Ted was relieved to hear from local RFS captain, Ian Scarr that his home and studio had been saved.
Others close by were not so lucky and when Ted returned home he was shocked at how desolate the local village and surrounding landscape looked.
I'm 75 now and too old to fight a fire. There was no power, no phone and only water in buckets.Ted Prior
The impact on the local forest, which surrounds Ted's 200 acre property, was devastating.
It was while cleaning up after the bushfire that Ted started to think about the impact on the local wildlife population.
Which got him thinking about how his fictional character Grug would have survived the fire because he lives underground.
"I thought immediately 'there's a Grug story!'
Something he thought he'd run out of in 2016.
Ted wrote the new story almost straight away and put together a black and white storyboard for his publishers Simon and Schuster Australia.
They loved it.
Ted has been penning the charming little books about Grug since 1979.
Grug and the bushfire, released one year on from the fire, is the 35th book in the series.
Ted admitted he had reservations about publishing it.
The bushfire had been such a stressful event for Ted that he was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
He was worried about the impact the book may have on children who themselves had lived through the fires.
However Ted was assured the book would have a positive effect and could even be therapeutic for young readers.
Even so he was very conscious drawing the illustrations.
"I tried to get a feel for the fires without showing total devastation," he said.
The result is a Grug book like no other.
The special exclusive hardback is the largest of all the Grug books and includes a note from Ted and a special thank you to the volunteers with the Killabakh Rural Fire Brigade.
The book serves to remind us of the importance of looking after each other, of renewing the Australian wilderness, and the caution we all need to take during the bushfire season.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
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