Believing that children are never too young to learn to be kind and mindful, a local author hopes to encourage this lesson with her debut children’s book, The Santa Corner, this holiday season.
“Unlike other popular holiday books that encourage children to behave well to be put on Santa’s nice list, this story encourages good behavior to help others,” said author Jakie Rodriguez of Thousand Oaks. “The sooner they can learn the importance of helping others, the better our society will be.”
The Santa Corner, published by Mascot Books, is primarily geared for children 4 to 8 years old. In the tale, Santa is afraid he will not have enough presents to deliver to all the good boys and girls this Christmas — so he’s asking for help.
“He is sending out letters asking children to collect toys they no longer play with,” Rodriguez, 28, explained. “Once toys have been collected and placed in the Santa Corner, Santa sends his elves to collect them and bring them back to his workshop so he can make them like new.”
Rodriguez noted one of her favorite quotes in the story: “May you always do for others and let others do for you.”
“And it is my hope that the young readers of this book are encouraged to do for others after reading it,” she said.
A resident of Thousand Oaks for more than a decade, Rodriguez is a graduate of La Reina High School, California Lutheran University and Pepperdine University. She currently works as the digital content manager for Pepperdine’s Seaver College.
The inspiration for her book came about two years ago, when Rodriguez was working for the marketing department at Corwin Press and led a holiday toy donation drive for her department.
“Thanks to my generous colleagues, I had an SUV filled with baby and children’s toys,” Rodriguez recalled. “My aunt works for the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and the toys were collected to benefit the children.”
While Rodriguez was dropping off the toys at her aunt’s house, her cousin Penelope Grace, who was 3 years old at the time, found a hula hoop among the donated toys and started to play with it. Later that day, Rodriguez received a text from her aunt asking if the hula hoop was part of the donated toys, or one that she had bought just for Penelope.
“I told my aunt that my cousin could keep it and that I would replace the donated one,” Rodriguez remembered. “However, my aunt responded, saying that she had explained to my cousin that there were children who had far less than she did and that the hula hoop was meant for them. Not only did my cousin understand, but she began to think of the toys she had that she could donate.”
After learning about how generous her little cousin was — and how she understood the importance of giving — Rodriguez thought other children could as well.
“Inspired by my cousin’s generosity and the holiday season, I decided to craft a story that features every kid’s favorite gift-giver, Santa,” said Rodriguez, who recruited her best friend, Bee L. Hannah of Oak Park, to illustrate the book. This book is a labor of love and incorporates many people that matter most in the author’s life.
For instance, Rodriguez explained, “The hula hoop Meghyn plays with in the beginning was representative of the hula hoop my cousin played with, and the character Gracie is named after her,” Rodriguez said. “The dog is based off of my best friend’s dog, and the paintings along the staircase represent my family and the gazebo where my grandparents met. Santa’s ‘nice list’ features the names of my family and loved ones, as well as those of the illustrator.”
Last year, after reading The Santa Corner to kindergarten, first- and second-graders, the students shared with her what toys they were going to put in their Santa Corner when they got home.
“My hope is that, like the students, readers will be inspired to create their own Santa Corner,” Rodriguez said.
The Santa Corner can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target or MascotBooks.com. For more information on the author, visit www.jakierodriguez.com.