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December 21, 2017 | Troylon Griffin II
University of Houston-Clear Lake Associate Professor of Political Science William T. Hoston's second children’s book, “The Magic Beard,” aims at helping children with cancer understand their illness.
The book was written by Hoston. UH-Clear Lake alumna Chika Nwankwo created the illustrations. The book centers around "Dr. William Jr." who helps children with cancer grow their hair back by using hair from his magical beard.
The book shows Dr. William Jr. helping multiple children diagnosed with cancer, curing their sorrows with his magical beard. At the end of the book is a glossary titled “Glossary for Parents” that provides definitions and descriptions of various cancers for the parents of children diagnosed. The end of the book also features a section available for coloring.
Hoston created the book as a therapeutic tool for children with cancer, while also being just as much for the parents of diagnosed children. Hoston’s goal was to create something that can help parents explain to their kids the cancer with which they have been diagnosed with while also helping the children.
Hoston said the decision to focus the story around the doctor’s beard came about early on in the book’s genesis.
“I already had the concept related around cancer, because I really wanted to do what I call a ’therapeutic counseling book,’ which is really a tool for parents who have children that have been diagnosed with cancer,” Hoston said. “The purpose of it would be not just to talk to them about their diagnosis, but to educate them about their diagnosis.”
The book was initially intended to be a collaboration between Hoston and Houston Rockets player James Harden, who is known for his trademark beard. Hoston revealed that, due to connection difficulties, Harden was not able to continue working on the book, but Hoston decided to stick with focusing the story around a doctor with a magical beard.
“What we really wanted to do was begin to create these children’s books that really had an issue revolving around it, that kids could read and be beneficial and timeless,” Hoston said.
Upon Harden being unavailable, Hoston chose to make his 2-year-old son William Jr. the main character instead. Hoston noted that this came about from his son’s dream of becoming a doctor.
“When you have a child you want to be able to empower them, and once he said he wanted to be a doctor, it just clicked that he needed to be the main character,” Hoston said.
Hoston collaborated with UHCL alumnae Chika Nwankwo, one of his former students who does freelance graphic design, to illustrate the book.
“When I do projects, I like to give students an opportunity to be a part of them,” Hoston said. “Throughout the years, I’ve worked with students on a lot of projects, so I reached out to her.”
Nwankwo was immediately onboard with the book and began helping Hoston.
“I decided to illustrate the book because I am confident with the end results, plus it was my first time working on an actual illustration, design and layouts,” Nwankwo said.
Hoston revealed that the book’s proceeds all go to charities helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey and other recent natural disasters. Hoston explained that he felt this was the right thing to do regarding the book’s success.
“Every time you create a project, the goal is never to make money, the goal is to influence and for your product to appeal to the masses, so that’s one of the reasons I did it,” Hoston said.
So far, the book has been distributed to more than 20 hospitals, including MD Anderson Cancer Center, and has been well received by its readers. Many have reached out to Hoston applauding the book and its purpose and has gained many followers and sales.
“I’ve been happy with the reception,” Hoston said. “People see there’s a message behind the book. I think they like that there’s a face behind the book, as opposed to a general children’s book that’s out there, and I think because we are trying to battle cancer people understand the relevance and importance of it.”
Hoston went on to say that he feels his goal with the book has been successful, and that his long-term goal is for hospitals like the MD Anderson Cancer Center to adopt the book.
“I think if we could just sell a minimum amount of books and give back, that would be great for me,” Hoston said. “I think in our society we sometimes get blindsided with not understanding that there needs to be multiple outlets for educating people on serious issues. So if you have a mother and she’s 25 and has a 4-year-old, how does she tell a 4-year-old that he has cancer? They can buy this book, read it, and both learn from it. The main purpose is that they reach an understanding from the book.”
“The Magic Beard” can be purchased on Amazon.
(This article first appeared in The Signal, UH-Clear Lake's student publication.)