Jaylen, the Joyous Black Boy is not only the title of his new children’s book, but also the kid Danny Blue says he would be if he could hop back in time. Blue tapped fellow Wingate University alumnus Tim Myers to illustrate his story of a 5-year-old who harnesses the power of kindness to change lives.
“It is really easy to think of superheroes as far-fetched and out of reach,” Myers told the communications department at Wingate. “But when you have a superhero who is 5 and whose power is unlimited positive energy and kindness, that’s different. As a kid who loved superheroes, it would have meant everything to me to have a superhero that I could actually be.”
Blue says he created Jaylen as a type of everyday hero in order to show readers “the power of themselves.”
“Jaylen is a superhero by being himself,” Blue said. “Another kid can be a superhero by being himself, using what he has. I wanted kids to look up to Jaylen and think, I can be like him. Most importantly, it’s a children’s book that both parent and child can take something from. If we can practice empathy and kindness, we can make the world a better place. We each have that individual responsibility.”
In the first installment of what Blue expects will become a four- or five-book series, Jaylen steps in when a new kid at school is being picked on and winds up changing his classmate’s life.
Blue and Myers have been invited to read their 36-page hardback to children in some local schools and have gotten positive feedback.
“That’s been what I have enjoyed most: seeing children’s reactions,” Blue said of the book, which was released late last year.
Both say they felt it was important to show Black youth in a positive light, especially given the dearth of children’s literature about people of color.
According to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center, racial diversity in children’s books has picked up since 2014. Even so, fewer than a third of children’s books written last year are about racially diverse characters or subjects. Fewer still, just over a quarter, were written by authors of color.
Blue says he always knew he wanted to write. When he found himself fairly homebound by the pandemic, he decided to get cracking on a children’s book as his foray into self-publishing. While he was learning the ins and outs of getting a book to market, Myers was bringing Jaylen and the book’s other characters to life using Procreate on his iPad.
“This has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Myers said. “Danny gave me creative flexibility. We would talk about direction and what we hoped to get out of the characters, but how they engage was really up to me.” Although he’s always loved to draw and had created comics, this was his first venture that involved detailed story-boarding and page-by-page design.
Already, he’s at work developing illustrations for Jaylen’s next adventure, a book that Blue is hopeful the two will be able to turn out by fall.
“Without giving away too much, there will be a new character introduced,” Blue said. “She will be a girl with a superpower. And this time Jaylen will be the one that is in need.”
Both author and illustrator earned their master’s degrees in business administration from Wingate; Blue in 2017 and Myers this spring. Both also majored in sport management.
A loan officer for Better Mortgage in Charlotte, Blue says he’s forever grateful for his time at Wingate, where professors invested in him. Myers has been working for the University as an outreach and support coordinator for the Wayfind program.
“My experience at Wingate is an example of the spirit of Jaylen,” Myers said. “People, as a whole, have been warm, welcoming and kind, as well as empathetic, all the same qualities that we use to describe Jaylen.”
Jaylen, the Joyous Black Boy is available at For Us Publishing and other online sites.