Building a Personalized Library

Image: Sarah Pinault

Many years ago, my friend introduced me to The Tail of Emily Windsnap, a story about a girl who discovers she is a mermaid. This having been a childhood fantasy of mine, I found the book thoroughly delightful. I was even more taken with it when I heard the story behind the story. When my friend Emily was a little girl, her mother began buying books. She wouldn’t just purchase the classics, Dr. Seuss and the like, there was a specific focus. Now because of her mother’s passion, Emily has a collection of books with “Emily” in the title or as the main character. This made a great impression on me and planted a seed in my mind.


When I was pregnant with my first child in 2009, I came across a book while perusing my local book store. It was called Toby Alone, and was written by Timothee de Fombelle. I remembered Emily’s collection, and knew that this was something I had to do for my children. I read the book to Toby when he was a newborn. I was fighting post-partum depression, and worried that I wasn’t spending enough time with my son, that he wouldn’t know who I was. I read to him constantly so that the silence wouldn’t broaden the chasm I imagined between us. I particularly enjoyed reading this book to him, it made me feel more comfortable in my new mother skin.

These days it’s a much more casual, fun thing I do for my boys. I don’t scour the internet for books, I simply pick them up as I find them. It has led to the discovery of some wonderful stories, and the rediscovery of some forgotten ones. For my son Tobias, I have the following to begin his collection:

For my son Charles, I have the following:

Several of these are stories I expect them to grow into as they get older, so for right now I get more fun out of them than they do.

You can also go full blown mixed media with this idea. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been made into several movies, and as I used to call my son Charlie Bucket when he was a baby I have a soft spot for this one. Toby Tyler is an old movie, and the author of this book is the namesake of one of the elementary schools I work for. Thomas the Tank Engine, of course, is full of different names and is absolutely everywhere. For something really fun, you can also watch Freema Agyeman of Doctor Who reading Charlie Cook’s Favorite Book for CBBC. There are plenty of places to find books or cartoons that your kids will love all the more for having such an intimate connection. Check out the library and your local book store with them, they will love finding their name in print.