It was December 2014, and I was in the Christmas spirit. I had made a vow that unlike years past, I would not wait until the last minute to do my holiday shopping. I went through my usual routine of compiling lists for my family and outlined my shopping strategy. I had a good idea of what mostly everyone wanted, but I was most excited about my niece, McKenzie’s, list.
McKenzie was my first and only niece at the time. A smart, beautiful, dancing, future chef who has the biggest heart of anyone you’ll meet. Like any other child, she was excited about Christmas. So like the awesome aunt I am, I approached her with the question every child wants to hear, “What do you want for Christmas?” Being the animated, sometimes dramatic child she is, she didn’t immediately answer. Instead she stepped back, put her finger on her chin, looked to the ceiling and said, “Hmmmm…” Surely, she was going through her mental catalog of every toy, game, and doll that was in high demand that Christmas. I just knew it would be something that I’d have to search high and low to find and spend more than budgeted to buy.
After a few seconds, which felt more like minutes, her puzzled expression turned into a bright-eyed smile as she replied, “Books!” I returned a puzzled expression and responded, “Books? Is that all?” With her wide smile still in tact, she said simply, “Yeah TT, I just want books.” I wasn’t shocked that she wanted books. I also loved reading as a child. I was more shocked that she didn’t want anything else. Nevertheless, I took my assignment and my book search began.
McKenzie was an avid reader, so I wanted to get her books that were on her level and that would also pique her interest. Since she had just turned 8, she wanted “big girl books” with chapters, and not just books full of pictures. I remembered my love for series such as The Babysitters Club and Goosebumps, so I turned my focus to book series. I thought it would be beneficial to give her a series she could grow with over time. Not just any book series, but a book series with lead characters who looked like her. My mission was clear. I began scouring online and eventually in stores for book series with a black girl as the lead character. An easy enough mission…or so I thought. However, as my search continued I found myself constantly repeating the same question. Where are all the black girl books? Little did I know, this one question would take me further than I ever imagined. Stay tuned!