Sutherland Elementary School eighth-grader Ezra Blue was great friends with Araceli Hernandez.
Sadly, Hernandez died three years ago after battling cancer, but when it came time for Blue to complete a school service project, he knew it was the perfect chance to honor Hernandez.
Blue, of Beverly, is collecting books to create “The Araceli Hernandez Young Adult Memorial Library” at Mt. Greenwood Elementary School, where Hernandez was a student.
Blue and Hernandez attended preschool and kindergarten together at Beverly Montessori School, forming a strong bond.
“She was really nice. She loved books, and I loved books,” Blue said. “I remember that we kind of just read a lot. At the end of the day every day, we would read a book with the whole class, and me and Araceli were really, really into that.”
The library will have a young-adult theme and include “home run” books, Blue said—books that people want to read over and over. He is mostly accepting fiction but will also accept non-fiction books.
He is uniting with Bookie’s New and Used Books in Beverly on the project, as donors can visit the Bookie’s website, then purchase a book on the library wish list. Blue will also accept books people already own, provided the books are in good condition. All books should be hardcover editions.
Blue picks up the books every week at Bookie’s, 10324 W. Western Ave.
Hernandez died at age 10 on Feb. 21, 2017, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor eight months earlier that was later determined to be glioblastoma multiforme. At her funeral, her parents, Jimmy and Rachael Hernandez, gave away copies of her favorite books, including “The Book Thief,” a historical novel about a little girl growing up in Nazi Germany.
Blue said the book “has stayed with me unlike any book ever has.”
And it inspired his service project.
“I wanted to do something that would really impact me or really come back to the community,” Blue said. “I wanted to do something with books, because I think everybody needs books. … After I looked at ‘The Book Thief,’ it reminded me of Araceli.”
Blue will collect books through March 15—a week before his project his due. He reached out to Hernandez’s parents and Mt. Greenwood Elementary School Principal Kate Reidy to get their approval, and he asked Beverly Bank to make a name plaque for the library, which will be part of Mt. Greenwood School’s general library.
“Araceli always had a book in her hand,” Reidy said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the life of a little girl who loved to read as much as Araceli did. The contribution that will be made to our library in honor of Araceli will aid in pushing out that same love of reading to all the students who walk through our doors.”
Emily Asher, a family friend and graphic artist who owns Emily Rose Ink, will provide small signs to be placed in the books to denote they are part of the library.
Blue chose his favorite books, as well as those of his mother, Becca Blue, for the wish list. Rikki Steinmetz, a librarian and school parent, also provided input.
The owner of Bookie’s, Keith Lewis, said about 40 of the 160 books on the list had already been purchased. Blue said several teachers, family members and friends have made purchases.
Lewis, Bookie’s owner since 2015, has compiled wish lists for customers before, but none has enjoyed a response like Blue’s.
“It’s a really awesome project. It’s pretty amazing,” Lewis said. “It’s not the first time that somebody has approached us to do something honoring Araceli, but this is the one that really made the most sense.”
The Blue and Hernandez families remain close, and Araceli’s younger brothers attend Mt. Greenwood School.
Blue takes pride in knowing that her siblings will see a library dedicated to her.
“I want them to be able to know that her name isn’t forgotten,” Blue said. “They can still hold books that she loved.”
To purchase a book, click here