Long-Time LBI Visitor Self-Publishes Children’s Book for Sandy Relief

Jun 19, 2013
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Jennifer Crawford reads her book, No Sand in the House! to her children, Charlie and  Abby.

Jennifer Crawford, 40, of Charlottesville, Va., is a wife, a mother of two young children and a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. With more than enough to keep her busy, she somehow found the time to write a children’s book for Superstorm Sandy relief.

“I was at the library one day with my kids in January, a snowy Friday afternoon, and it just kind of hit me when I was there that I can do this,” Crawford remembered. “I was looking at dozens and dozens of children’s books, and I thought, ‘I can do this, and I can do this for a good cause.’”

Crawford self-published No Sand in the House! through Createspace on Amazon in May. The “semi-autobiographical” beach story set on Long Beach Island revolves around her children, Abby, 7, and Charlie, 6, as they try to avoid trekking sand into their grandparents’ shore home.

Although she hopes to make enough profit from the book to cover the cost of the illustrator and other initial expenses, all other proceeds will go directly to local nonprofit organizations affected by the storm. Donations will target the High Point Volunteer Fire Co. and Alliance for a Living Ocean, as well as Restore the Shore/Hometown Heroes. So far, Crawford has sold more than 300 copies of the book and has already donated a total of $500 to HPVC and ALO.

“I didn’t want LBI to get overlooked,” said Crawford. “With a lot of publicity going to other shore places, I wanted the place where I grew up to persevere. I remember doing activities with Alliance for a Living Ocean when I was a kid. The fact that they’re still around making a difference, I knew that was a known quantity and that the money would be going to the right place.

“I want the book to be successful, but I’m not in it to make money. I would say I’m advocating for it more because the money is going to charities that I believe in, whereas I might not be working as hard if it wasn’t," she added.

Crawford has been visiting LBI since she was a kid. Thirty years ago, after renting for many years in Beach Haven Park, her parents, Dick and Sandi Crawford, decided to buy a house on the same street they always visited. Although they spent winters up north in Verona, Crawford said the family always looked forward to summers at the beach.

“I’ve never gone to any other beach,” she said. “Literally, the same two blocks in Beach Haven Park, that has been my beach world. We never took a beach vacation anywhere else.”

Crawford has continued the tradition with her husband, Chuck, a U.S. Army judge advocate, and their children. The family finds solace on the 18-mile island, especially during the few weeks during deployments when they are displaced.

Unfortunately, the first floor of the family’s summer home suffered from about 4 feet of floodwater damage due to Superstorm Sandy.

“Even with that, I would say we are luckier than most, and we appreciate that,” Crawford said. “It was not (my parents’) full-time home, they were not home at the time (of the storm), and they did not have to evacuate. So we are very thankful and very blessed with what we have.”

Having stayed in Virginia to look after her children while the rest of her family went to LBI to help clean up, Crawford said she felt stranded. The book helped make her feel like part of the recovery process.

“I felt very helpless in Virginia, and I couldn’t come and help my parents because my husband was working and the kids couldn’t go,” she said. “We’re a military family, so we move every two years. And literally, every time we move, we come here for about six weeks because our stuff is being shipped and we’re homeless. So Long Beach Island is a home, and it’s a home for the kids. In the midst of all this turmoil of moving and deployments and everything, coming to the shore in the summer is a constant for them,” she added, choking up a bit.

Crawford finished writing the story in one sitting. With her husband’s and her daughter’s immediate approval, she set out to find an illustrator. She wanted to have the book finished and ready for purchase within four to six months, but many illustrators, while very supportive, thought her timeline was unrealistic. Luckily, Hannah Touhy, an illustrator who also lives in Charlottesville, agreed to do the project. She was hired in February and supplied with photos of LBI and Crawford’s family to help her better depict the image of the local area.

Many businesses on LBI have the book available for purchase. Copies can be found in Regenerate, Song of the Sea, Haymarket Hobbies & Toys, Book Swap, SwellColors Glass Studio, Islanders’ Store, The Book Worm and The Chicken or the Egg. Copies will also be available for purchase at the Long Beach Island branch of the Ocean County Library on Monday, July 8, where Crawford will be offering a book reading and signing during the summer reading program.

For more information about the book, visit nosandinthehouse.com.

— Kelley Anne Essinger


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