For legendary journalist Bobbito Garcia, there are few mountains left to scale. In his 30-plus years as a creative, he’s gained notoriety as a former street basketball player, a pioneer in sneaker journalism, an acclaimed filmmaker, the voice of EA Sports’ NBA Street franchise, and a world-renowned DJ. And while he’s also garnered critical success for his 2003 shoe-centric book, Where’d You Get Those? NYC’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987, he hasn’t authored a book since.
After twenty years, “DJ Cucumber Slice” picked up the pen once again to scale yet another mountain: crafting a children’s book. The decision may seem left field on the surface, but for Garcia, it was fueled entirely by the natural progression of fatherhood and timing.
“I wanted to write a book when my son was born,” he discloses to VIBE. “My co-parent was the one who put the egg in my head like, ‘Yo, you’re a great storyteller. You should write a kid’s book.’ In 2022, I got hit up by We Are Little Giants, they had published a couple of independent books that had done well, and they were like, ‘Yo, we got a deal with the NBA as an official marketing partner to do five basketball books.'” He told the company that he wasn’t “the NBA dude,” but someone who lives for streetball in the parks. To his surprise, however, We Are Little Giants asserted, “That’s exactly why we want you to write it.”
Entitled Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!, Bobbito’s first foray into the world of kid’s literature is a defiant leap. The story clocks in at 58 pages and blends his expertise into one medium.
Fittingly, his children’s book—which threads social-emotional learning with life lessons—mirrors the meticulous care Garcia exercises with his son. While writing and filmmaking are life-long passions for the multi-hyphenate, his love for inspiring and teaching the next generation was one of the goals of his latest project.
“I hope that more people get to read [Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!] in time, because it’s so worthwhile, and it could be life-affirming for children and adults,” said the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame inductee. “Homeschooling parents and the next generation of youngins were on my mind when writing this book. And those who were unschooling because I’m unschooling my son with my co-parent. Homeschooling has allowed us to teach them self-directed learning and facilitate their natural curiosities. So some of that energy can be found in this book.”
VIBE connected with Bobbito Garcia on Zoom to discuss the project
with the legend checking on his son in between questions. The conversation focused on his inspiration behind Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!, what cultural lessons can be found in the book, and why representation matters in media today. ,
VIBE: What inspired Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!?
Bobbito García: Most people don’t know that I’m a parent. I have a nine-year-old son, and I’m also his full-time primary caretaker. So with the book Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!, my relationship with my son inspired it.
The main character in the book is Taína, who is not my son, but it follows this young nine-year-old who’s a basketball novice who has trepidation about making a shot on a 10-foot rim. And a lot of us can learn from her. You can take out the fear of hitting a shot into multiple quandaries we face as children, and the message will resonate across many walks of life.
Walk me through a brief synopsis of the book to give people an idea of what it’s about.
So the book follows Taína traveling during a pandemic with this hesitance to make a shot on the court. And in that relationship, they’re learning so much about social-emotional skills, math, Black and Puerto Rican history and culture, and science, all through the relationship between Taína’s mother and father.
The father is a basketball nut. So Taína’s learning a lot on the court in terms of geometry. And I don’t want to give too much away about the book because I want people to learn about it there, but it’s a special book. I mean, I have had people read it and cry. I didn’t anticipate that; I had a seven, eight-year-old, nine-year-old in mind when writing it.
Who illustrated the book? Who helped bring your vision to life?
Estefanía Rivera Cortés. Estefanía is gender fluid, not from the basketball world, and not completely familiar with New York. And I was like, ‘You are perfect.’ I talked about entry points. I didn’t want the book to be anything that was expected. And it’s not; the colors they chose and Estefanía’s brilliant imagination—we worked together so well. Sometimes I had to sketch out stuff, and I gave her a whole folder of photos so that it could be authentic. But I also told her, ‘Look, we’re doing a Brooklyn story, but we can make departures left and right,’ and we did.
That’s why I’m so proud of the work; I ‘art-directed’ the book. We Are Little Giants gave me the creative license to do… ‘Yo, just do whatever.’ Illustrated picture books are usually 32 pages; we went like 58 pages. I was like, ‘I’m going to write the story, and we’re going to make it fresh.’ And ain’t one person complain yet like, ‘Oh, the book is too long.’ Nah, kids love it. I’ve done virtual readings with small groups and classrooms; the kids love it. I’m breaking the rules; I’ve done that all my life (laughs).
Was there a specific demographic in mind when you were writing this book?
I made the book for the empowerment of Black people, the upliftment of Puerto Rican people, and the gender-neutral children who in this country are being bombarded with negativity and restrictions to self-determination. I made it for the basketball heads.
I made it for anyone who lacks self-esteem and self-confidence because the book is not about results; it’s about effort and attitude. Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High! Try your best. Have a positive attitude. These are the qualities that I instill in my son and want to instill in the reader as well, or at the very least, inspire something new. And it could be a 45-year-old. I didn’t have my self-esteem a stronghold on it until I was in my thirties. And so we all struggled with that, no matter the age or background.
What do you think is one of the most fascinating aspects of Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!?
Well, there are multiple entry points. For Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!, I refer to the main character Taína as ‘they’ for a reason. I have a page with an illustration of Pedro Albizu Campos, a revolutionary leader in Puerto Rico for the independence and sovereign right of the island from the colonization of United States.
A child or parent may see Albizu and be like, ‘Yo, let’s look up Pedro and find out who he is.’ Another important moment in the book is when Taína goes to El-Shabazz’s playground. El-Shabazz is also known as Malcolm X, so there’s little exciting cultural breadcrumbs throughout the book. I hope parents and kids alike fall in love with Taína’s story and the [rich history] of her journey!
Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High! is available now at wearelittlegiants.com and wherever books are sold.