By Edward Henderson
How far would you travel to find a loved on you lost? Death can send us on a journey through time using our thoughts as means for transportation. We visit memories of the past, the feeling of absence in the present moment and dream of a future where they were still here. San Diego native Brandon Johnson has traveled this journey more times than he would like. He lost his mother Sheryl to Cancer and his infant son August, who was still born in his 8th month in the womb within a period of a few years. Johnson recently decided to write a children’s book to help youth cope with loss, while also encouraging them to take a special journey of their own to discover the world around them.
Johnson’s book, ‘August & the Wind’ tells the story of August, a young boy who embarks on journey to find his mother after she passes away. One night while staring at the night sky, the wind carries him away and takes him to destinations across the globe as he searches. August visits countries in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe during his quest. Along with experiencing the sites, smells and landmarks in each continent, August returns home to receive a lesson and peace that he will always carry with him.
“Grief has made me really resilient as a person,” said Johnson. “It’s made me a better empathizer to other people. Loosing people is hard because they’re not there anymore. This book was a good release. It was a good homage to my mom and my son.”
While Johnson’s mother battled her own demons of addiction along with health challenges, she still made time to connect with her son in a special way. Every other weekend, they would fly kites together at Seaport Village. The quality time activity inspired the usage of the wind as a magical entity in the book.
“I remember sitting outside crying in the rain in Tennessee after I found out about my mother’s passing. I had just talked to her on the phone a few days before. She didn’t tell me she was in the hospital. She didn’t want to put the extra stress on me during finals.”
One way Johnson coped with the pain from loss was travel. Every country and landmark August visits in the book is a destination Johnson traveled to in real life.
“I want to talk about things I went through in a light and magical way. I feel like you get a freedom in writing children’s literature than you do with adult books. You get the ability to affect children. This is the age where they still believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause and things like that. Their imaginations are open.”
Johnson self-published the book with help from a Kickstarter campaign which raised $5,000 to fund production and illustration from artist Qasima Wideman. A two year process from inception to completion, Johnson read over 100 children’s books to research the genre and spent countless hours making sure the larger message of the book was communicated clearly.
“The point is that the person is still with you. Hopefully when you feel the breeze you can think about the person you lost and know they’re still there. At the same time spark an interest in seeing the world.”
Johnson’s target audience for the book are 3rd graders and is available on Amazon. You can also visit brandonsjohnson.com to contact him directly and receive the book in person at a discounted price.
“There’s not a lot of books with a black face in it and they’re not a lot that deal with this subject or coupled it with travel. If you love travel, if you’ve lost someone or know a kid who’s lost someone or if you just want to support black African American children’s literature, it’d be great to pick one up.”