Review: The Real Santa

We all know that finding diverse and inclusive holiday books can be a tall order, but if you’re looking for a book with a non-white Santa Clause, it can feel nearly impossible. For Christmas Eve, I want to share The Real Santa by Nancy Redd and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, an affirming picture book that celebrates Black Santa.

Title: The Real Santa
Author: Nancy Redd
Illustrator: Charnelle Pinkey Barlow
Publisher: Random House Books For Young Readers
Published: October 26, 2021
Format: Picture Book

This delightful book follows a young Black boy as he and his family celebrate Christmas. Our young narrator’s favorite Christmas tradition is adding to his Santa collection, but he wonders if the real Santa looks like the figurines on the mantle. He decides to stay up late and catch a glimpse of Santa, but that is easier said than done.

Serving as both a mirror and a window for children, The Real Santa is a perfect example of Black representation through Black joy. Young readers will not be faced with history or struggle, but the love of a family celebrating Christmas and the curiosity of a young boy.

Charnelle Pinkney Barlow’s illustrations capture the joy and excitement of Christmas on every page, making The Real Santa a fantastic read aloud for the holidays. Observant young readers can also spot a surfer Santa on every spread, adding more fun on each additional reading.

The Real Santa is available for purchase wherever books are sold, including Bookshop, Amazon, and your local independent bookstore. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Random House Books For Young Readers for sharing The Real Santa with me. I know my little one will love reading this one tonight as he waits for a visit from Santa.

About The Author:

Nancy Redd is an award-winning on-air host, a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, a two-time Mom’s Choice Award winner, an NAACP Image Award nominee for outstanding literary work, and a GLAAD Media Award nominee for outstanding digital journalism. She is also the author of the highly-acclaimed picture book BEDTIME BONNET. Called “the perfect combination of style and substance” by Essence magazine, Nancy holds an honors degree in women’s studies from Harvard University. THE REAL SANTA was inspired by Nancy’s family’s own beloved Christmas traditions. Find Nancy online at

About The Illustrator:

Growing up, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow was surrounded by art. Her passion for illustration grew after being introduced to the wonderful world of watercolor. She received her BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts and her MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts. Creating images and stories that speak to the hearts of children and those that guide them is her greatest joy. Charnelle currently lives in Indianapolis with her husband. When she’s not drawing, she is baking, sewing or reading with a cup of tea by her side. Find her online at

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