Archive for May 24th, 2011

May 24, 2011

I named my son after a werewolf (and other woes of the personalized book)

Finding the right name for your children is an involved process.  Did you see the Pregnant in Heels episode (not that I watch, of course) where the couple used a think tank, a focus group, AND a dinner party to judge reaction to baby names?  And then chose the name they liked (Bowen) even though no one in any of those groups liked it?  I loved that—baby names are personal…that’s why no one tells until the baby is born.  Once the name is on a kid, no one can insult it…until that kid goes to school, that is.

For us, we thought about how the name sounded, what it meant, and where it came from.  We definitely wanted a family name.  Children, after all, are about as Darwinian as it gets, and in ensuring the continuation of my genes, it was important to me to honor those who carried these genes in previous lifetimes.

As soon as we learned we were having a boy, I got out the family trees.  I typed every male name into a document and we narrowed it down to a list of the final four names—-and then kept changing those every few weeks.

When we decided, it seemed obvious.  We liked the sound of the name, Jacob.  We liked the symmetry of the ancestry—Jacob was a great grandfather to my husband and my older son was named after a great grandfather to me.  Most importantly, we liked the idea of honoring this person, and this person’s family, by giving his name to a new member of our family.

The name hadn’t been on our top lists for the simple reason that it was so high up on the nation’s list.  I had really wanted something more unique.  But we decided to go with the name we thought was right for us, and if he had a few friends named after the Biblical character, well, that would be okay.

But here’s the thing: my dad called recently to say that he read an article that said Jacob was a popular recent name, not because of grandparents, Bibles, or Torahs, but because of Twilight.  Because of the Native American werewolf.  My husband is now threatening to tell everyone that we named our son after Taylor Lautner.

Werewolf or no, Jacob is our little Jacob and when I say his name I think about my grandmother-in-law and the father she once had.  And I’m so glad that in some small way, he lives again.

Which brings me, rather long-windedly, to a personalized book that I will read to teach Jacob his name.  The wonderful folks at Marblespark gave me a free copy of their books (with my son’s name!) so that I could see their work and share it with you.  I’m excited to do that here.

Title: Following Featherbottom
Author: Philip Haussler
Illustrator: Brad Sneed
Genre: Personalized Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

This book makes a great baby gift.  Each page adds another letter of the name, which spells itself out at the bottom of the pages as you read the book.  With each letter is an illustration of animals on an adventure in a different part of the world (that starts with that letter).  For example, the J in Jacob gives us this page: “A stop in Japan offers jillions of J’s. / Just watch out for jellyfish in all of its bays.”  Or the C gives you “Next we need a C so Cairo’s where we’ll stop / And listen as the camels go clippity-clop-clop.”  As you read the story, you travel the world picking up the letters to spell your child’s name.  The illustrations are my favorite part–they are beautiful with soft colors and a great sense of humor.

One of the cool things about creating this book online is that not only are you personalizing each page by the letters in your baby’s name, but you have choices for each letter.  For example, if there is a C in the name, you can choose Cairo or Chile, among others.  As you create the book online, it shows you the page, tells you what the other options are and if they are used already elsewhere in the book and lets you decide the trip your child will take to pick up his letters around the world.

Adding a middle name is an extra few dollars, and when they gave me the code, they actually recommended that I not do so because it lengthens the book so much.  This is true, and we ended up with a pretty long book, but I’m not really reading this only as a story; I’m reading this so he can see the wonder of his name, and I wanted all of that to be there.

Follow-up with the kids:

If you read this blog at all, you know that I like books that encourage kids to interact with them.  Not only does this book encourage your child to think about his name and learn the spelling, watching the name appear across the bottom of the page, but it introduces letters in other ways as well.  Each illustration contains items that start with the corresponding letter, which are written next to the picture.  You and your child can search for the items, practicing out loud how to say them, emphasizing the sound of the first letter, which they will all have in common.  Check it out at

While you are there, check out their community-built picture book project, a public book written by the masses that raises funds for charity at