My family absolutely loves the holidays.
Christmas is a very special time for us. We go all out with addressing all the senses. Every single one. The sights of the warm lights. The smells of the tree, the food, and all the cookies. The sounds of holiday music- all day every day. The hardy laughs and sharing of old stories. Warm hugs from old and new friends. Wrapping packages and tying bows. Making things pretty and spreading all the joy. Watching reruns of movies we’ve seen too many times and my favorite- reading our holiday book collection.
But finding holiday picture books with Black characters (especially one with brown young boys) was always challenging and every year it seemed even harder to find a new title that we didn’t already own.
I remember grumbling to myself, why is it so difficult to keep building this collection? My family loves Christmas too, why can’t we be represented in the books my kids read?
True to form, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
That time just happened to also be the year I reread the late great Toni Morrison famous quote “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
That was the year I decided that the next diverse holiday book that I would add to my family’s collection would be one that I wrote myself.
As I was writing the story, it dawned on me that a classic holiday storyline involves characters helping Santa Claus save the day. I had not yet been able to find that story with a Black boy as the leading protagonist.
I then began to think about every single holiday movie we watch and all of the books we read. I want Nick (my son) to grow up in a world where he receives the same messages that other children do about his role in our community. He needs to see characters who look like him, to have messages of his ability to be competent, helpful, and successful reinforced in his mind.
My child, like every other child, deserves to be seen as the hero. My child deserves to know that he also is capable of helping Santa save the day. Santa can trust him and can call on him. He can be a leader in kindness. He can save the world. But it is sometimes hard to be what you cannot see. Not impossible. Just hard.
And from that realization, In The Nick of Time was born.
In The Nick of Time is a timely tale about a Little Brown Boy who Saves Christmas. Nick Saint never really put a lot of thought into his name until one snowy day in December when he accidentally receives a letter meant for Saint Nick. Realizing there is not much time left until Christmas, Nick opens the letter. The unexpected message inside ultimately leads him on a journey of understanding poverty, gratitude, and service to others while discovering the real meaning of the holiday spirit.
In The Nick of Time is a story that is beautiful and filled with messages that all children need to hear about poverty, gratitude, and service to others. We believe Santa would be so proud.
I know I am.
But most of all, I am proud that I took action to remedy the lack of diversity for my own son Nick, who is now 11.
There is true power in picture books and still so many stories to share. All families need these books. Books with Black characters are not just for Black children.
They are for all children because these stories reflect the world we live in and reinforce that we all have important roles to play in real life. It is true that there are more diverse books than ever, but still nowhere near enough.
If you want to do something really cool this holiday season, write your own story and include characters that are not traditionally represented. I also strongly encourage you to expand your own library for kids you know and buy books with diverse characters to donate to schools, daycares, churches, and community centers.
Now that’s a cool holiday story.
Check out the companion story to this blog post on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day blog that talks about my thoughts (and frustrations) on the subject of Where are all the Diverse Holiday Picture Books!?
In honor of National Picture Book Month, any book in the Make A Way Media catalog will enjoy a special discount AND free shipping by using SAVE25 at checkout!