'North Pole Ninjas,' 'Gnome in Your Home' encourage charity, kindness
Posted November 28, 2016
Three years ago, Sarah Linden said she noticed the spirit of the holiday season slipping away in her family. She wanted to do something to focus more on serving others instead of on presents.
So, she came up with an idea to write a letter from Santa asking her children to be part of the North Pole Ninja team and do something kind. She was worried that her children would be disappointed that they were doing this instead of getting candy or a special toy in their advent calendar. But her children surprised her with their reaction.
“They were so excited,” Linden said in an interview with the Deseret News. "They loved doing things for other people. It became our tradition right then and there and we decided we wanted to share that with other kids and families.”
Her idea eventually became “North Pole Ninjas: Mission: Christmas,” (Grossett & Dunlap, $29.99, 32 pages, ages 0-4). Co-written by poet Tyler Knott Gregson, the book gives children missions to accomplish to help Santa by doing good deeds.
“Charity has been a huge part of both our lives,” Gregson said. “We both kind of wanted something that, at a really young age, taught kids to make charity a really easy and everyday part of their life, without making it feel like work or stressful.”
“North Pole Ninjas” presents giving in a fun, interactive way. In the book, the North Pole Ninjas are mighty, but secret and sneaky as they go about doing good deeds. Led by Santa’s sensei, the ninjas perform random acts of kindness without making a sound. With Santa’s permission, the ninjas ask readers to help spread Christmas cheer by completing missions of charity.
“It is really a natural thing for kids to want to help and give back,” Linden said. “But it is not presented to them often because families are busy.”
While some missions may require a little money or time, most are simple acts that children can accomplish without help from an adult, such as being kind to a new friend, writing a note or poem for someone, complimenting a person or doing chores without being told.
As Linden’s children and Gregson’s nieces and nephews have taken to the message and missions, they have noticed a change in the children’s behaviors and attitudes.
“That is the shift we have seen,” Gregson said. “It is really cool to see, without us saying anything, the natural infusion of giving back that takes place. … That is what is magic about it is seeing how they take it in their brains and run with it. They come up with stuff that we could never even have thought of or planned for.”
Linden said that as her children have eagerly reported back to her on kind acts, she has also started to think more of others.
“We both really think that right now this is needed more than ever,” Linden said. "Our world is in need of kindness and love and focusing on how to help each other and lifting each other up. What better place to start than with little kids who are our future?”
Children are encouraged to accomplish each mission secretly. A cute, plush sensei is to be taken along on the missions to help guide the new ninjas.
According to Gregson, the sneakiness of the ninja is a big part of the secret mission.
“It teaches the kids the way you feel when you do something good — that good thing — is the reason you are doing it,” Gregson said.
The book is illustrated by Piper Thibodeau and comes with an envelope that contains 50 missions.
Linden and Gregson said they have big dreams for the North Pole Ninjas. They want the idea to become something that extends out of the Christmas season and eventually becomes a community project.
Ninjas are invited to share their acts of kindness on Twitter using the hashtag #NorthPoleNinjas.
"THE GNOME IN YOUR HOME — A Tradition of Kindness," by Susan S. Johnson, illustrated by Alexa Kanarowski, $29.95
“The Gnome in Your Home — A Tradition of Kindness,” written by Susan S. Johnson and illustrated by Alexa Kanarowski, also teaches children about kindness.
The idea for the book started as an advent calendar with acts of kindness, according to information from Johnson. She was “interested in helping her son develop skills related to empathy, kindness and positive behaviors.”
Johnson noted that she reviewed research on kindness and children’s books. In “The Gnome in Your Home” she “explains why kindness is important in a kid-friendly manner and makes it fun and easy for parents to plan/implement.”
The book comes with a plush gnome toy, and in the back of the book are several pages with acts of kindness cards and also recipient cards that can be included when presenting the kindness act. Free printable cards are available on the book's website, thegnomeinyourhome.com.