Way back in the day, well Christmas 2006 to be precise, back in the annuls of time when company Christmas cards were still the done thing, my firm decided to send each of their clients a personalised calendar for the next year. And in an as yet unmatched spirit of Christmassy generosity, possibly brought on by one too many glasses of something festive, they also gave a calendar to each and every one of their employees. We must have been very good that year.
As the months of 2007 galloped away, each month brought a new picture. My name lit up the Sydney Harbour Bridge in fireworks to bring in the new year, I apparently authored a whole shelf of travel books in the spring, clouds danced and wrote across a peerless blue sky in the summer, and in September autumn leaves drifting down a stream formed clusters that spelled my name.
They were brilliant. I’ve still got mine in the back of a drawer, and I suspect that if you emptied out the desks of many of my colleagues you’d find more than a few copies. There’s just something so captivating about things that have your name on them. Nice things I mean; no one is captivated by a letter from the Inland Revenue.
It’s no news to anyone that books are fairly high up my list of nice things. I’ve been keeping a weather eye open for children’s stories where Kitty and Elma appear as heroines but those that I know of are still a little out of their age range.
They say that if Mohammed won’t come to the mountain, the mountain must go to Mohammed. In this case the mountain curled up on the sofa and opened her email. And there, sat in the inbox waving, was Mohammed. Or in this case, a lovely email from Helena at Getting Personal who wondered whether Kitty and Elma might like a little bedtime story each all about them.
Would they! If a whole firm of grown up sensible-ish lawyers was powerless against the charms of a calendar, what chance would two tiny sisters have against books written about them. I said yes please.
And as soon as they arrived I knew two things. One, they were great, and the girls loved them, and two, I was going to have to seriously rethink the photography.
I’m never quite sure how clear it is around here that Kitty and Elma are not my daughters’ real names. They have beautiful and unusual names for real life but as they’re not yet old enough to have a say in how much information Mama puts on the internet we chose to use their bump names here. I think I’d thought that their names would appear every now and then, just enough to drive the story along, but there isn’t a page in Elma goes to the Zoo without her name on it.
All the way around her trip to the zoo the animals spell out her name.
Right now she just loves the pretty photos of the animals and hearing her name, but it’s going to be great when she’s learning to read. Kitty likes it too; she points out Elma’s name on each page, and whenever the story tells how Elma and Mummy have gone to watch the rhinos, or found the polar bear she chimes in with:
“and me too!”
But Princess Kitty and the Mysterious Noise is her firm favourite (see above comments on the irresistible appeal of your own name). And just as with Elma’s book, her name is all over it. It’s a rhyming story, which is definitely an uphill task if you want to make it applicable to any number of names; there are one or two places where we have to ‘march in place’ but that’s what happens when you give your daughter a four-syllable name.
I like the story too; the Princess who hears a scary noise in her castle at night, gathers up her toys for a bit of moral support and sets off in search of that terrible groaning, only to discover a lonely monster hiding under the stairs, too scared to come out for fear that everyone would run away from his big purple fluffy monster face. But Princess Kitty promises a hug and out he comes to play with all her toys and to stop the terrible noise.
It’s sweet without being saccharine, and the whole book is lovely enough that I’ve just about forgiven the use of “to try and find out”, which makes my inner grammar snob twitch. For the record, I know that “try and” is an accepted form in informal language, but my brain still auto-corrects to “try to” whenever I’m reading it. Some English teachers made a lasting impact it seems.
In all of my pootling around bookshops I’d never thought to have anything made for the girls, but now that I’ve got them, I can’t really figure out why not. They’re stories that we enjoy on their own merit, and the personalisation is simply the icing on the cake. And best of all, there can never be any arguments about whose is whose.
Do go and say hi to Lucy and Kelle and see what they’ve been reading, and if you’ve seen something you think we all ought to be reading, please join in the linky, I now have a wonderful baby and toddler booklist thanks to everyone’s suggestions.
Just in case it isn’t blindingly obvious, my little ones were sent these books as gifts. I think they’re really great but I wasn’t paid to say that; all views, especially the ones about grammar, are my own, as are the pictures.