My family loves Christmas. Every part of it. From the gatherings of families and friends to the cookies and the presents. We also love reading Christmas stories.
For many years we have faithfully collected holiday books of all kinds, but we seek out books with characters that look like our family. (My youngest son is 11 now, but my oldest children are 22 and 27 years old.) It is important for kids to see themselves in books because it validates their existence and models new and important experiences for them.
Every year we would get a new holiday book or two to add to our collection. Some of our favorites throughout the years have been: Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina, The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow, Hallelujah by W. Nikola-Lisa, and last year we picked up I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Scofield-Morrison. But for more than a few of those years, it seemed that there just weren’t any more stories with brown characters in lead roles to collect.
One of my favorite Christmas storylines is when a child gets to help Santa Claus save the day. This theme is present in both books and films, but I couldn’t find a book anywhere with a little brown boy who got to help Santa save Christmas. I longed for this story for my son, so when I couldn’t find it, I wrote it. In the Nick of Time was published in November of this year and has received praise from many parents who also want to show their brown boys that they too can save the day. Our children deserve to feel like heroes, too.
I knew when I wrote this book it was special. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an engaging holiday tale.” This story is both warm and funny and highlights many messages that all children need to discuss and learn more about. Some of the topics addressed are homelessness, poverty, gratitude, service to others and compassion. Race is not a topic that is overtly discussed, but it is clear that just the representation of a young black male in a leading role, in a holiday book at that, was a story that was missed on the bookshelves of many families.
A local newspaper wrote a story about the inspiration for this story and what a book like this means for me and my family. It soon became clear that this message was special for many families. The article picked up so much interest that USA Today also ran the story and tweeted about it. The book is sold out on Amazon and we are filling our internal orders as fast as we can. The responses I have received on social media from people who have already received the book and read it with their families have been so encouraging and uplifting. A mom told me that her brown son loved the book because the people in the book looked just like him and his family. A white family said they volunteer at a shelter every year at Christmas time and they bought copies of these books to give to the children in this shelter. Yet another message said that this book would replace their previous favorite Christmas Eve family story. The response to this story has been very affirming for me and reminds me that there is room for our stories too. We just have to continue to write them.
My sweet little boy with the fiery spirit and huge heart (just like the character in the book) will be the same age as Tamir Rice in under a year. I look at Tamir’s precious smile in pictures and it is no different from the warm smile from my son. As I read this book, I hope that children of all backgrounds will not only enjoy the story, but feel more connected and trusting of what we all have to give one another. I hope that all children will see that little brown boys can also be the leaders in kindness and someone that Santa can trust to call on for help. I pay tribute to black and brown boys all over our country with this holiday story. We have so many things to offer this world. And fear of us, especially of our little boys, should not keep us from saving the day.