A CHILDREN’S book character inspired by a terminally-ill Thurrock child has become a big seller.
Its creator is Darren Garwood, 37, from Tilbury, whose son Jackson has been diagnosed with Krabbe Disease.
The disease is an incurable rare genetic condition where the white matter of the nervous system degenerates. That leads to loss of developmental and motor skills. There can also be signs of blindness, paralysis, weight loss and unexplained fevers.
News of their son’s illness, first spotted when he was nine-months old and diagnosed by doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital three months later, rocked the world of Darren and his wife, Rebecca, 34.
Darren (left) said: “Our world came crashing down. At first I didn’t want to talk about it, but we did as it helps to get through things.” And getting through things has seen Jackson show remarkable resilience against the disease.
Initially Darren and Rebecca were told Jackson might not live to see his third birthday.
One autumn day in 2017, Rebecca asked Darren whether Jackson dreams, and wondered what he dreamt about.
Storybook comes from dreams
Darren believed he did, and formed the idea of all the amazing things he might think about when he sleeps, which led to the creation of the storybooks.
He wanted to give Jackson the chance to experience adventures in his dreams. And those adventures have been turned into a book that children across the world now know and love.
The four-year-old’s night time adventures are as exciting as any toddler might dream about.
Owls are one of Jackson’s favourite animals so Darren began writing rhymes for him before bedtime. This turned into a storybook over time. Then his friend, Carl Osborne, illustrated drawings to help make it into a real-life book.
The first book, Jackson Saves an Owl, tells the story of how the boy with a rare disease is far from ordinary and that makes him a superhero at night.
Darren, who works for Essex Highways and is based in Chelmsford for work, contacted publishers and one of them snapped it up.
The first book was released in September last year and has already sold more than 4,000 copies by Christmas.
Books will be Jackson’s legacy
As well as Jackson, the superhero character, Jackson now has a baby sister, Seren, and Darren says the books will be part of Jackson’s legacy to her.
When Darren is creating his rhymes for the story he tests them out on Jackson himself – when he reads to him at night.
“There are certain keywords included that are his favourite and he loves them, especially when you say ‘The End’,” said Darren.
“He does this little smile and it’s beautiful to see and it makes my world.
“I think of it sometimes as his body doesn’t work but his mind does.”
Thinking back to his schooling, Darren said he was never talented at English and never believed he would become an author.
“I have had teachers contact me from my old school,” he added, “They said they’d never thought that I would be the one that wrote a book.
“But I remind them it is a book for five-year-olds,” he laughed.
“I love my children, and Jackson needs this extra bit of loving, simple as that, to make him happy.
“I want everyone to know who he is.”
“I want Seren to be able to see him, she may not remember him when she’s older but if she can see him and his face everywhere it’d help.
“I want everyone to know who he is.”
Darren has planned several other sequels for Jackson, including one book where he travels back in time and ends up in a rock band with dinosaurs.
There is even a colouring book out to get even more creative with his adventures.
The second addition in the series is due out in spring this year, titled, Solution to the World Pollution, follows Jackson as he helps to clean up the Earth.
Now, Darren says he receives pictures and messages from people all across the world who have loved the book, and hopes it shows how extraordinary Jackson really is.
Even Grays-born comedian and host, Russell Brand, has met the family and showed his love of the story.
The family, who have raised money in the past to obtain specialist equipment and care, have spoken of the kindness and generosity of others who have helped. Darren recalled one person messaging them to say they were given £1,000 even though they had never met, but wanted to let them know that they cared.
“It has changed me as a person as well,” he said, “I always want to help someone if I can, it makes you a better person.”
To buy a copy of Jackson Superhero, you can visit Amazon, or local bookstores such as Waterstones, Foyles and independent stores across the county.