This book review is part of a PBN blog tour, and was received from the publisher
I remember the personalized books that some of my friends had when I was younger. They had all the type in a plain text, and then the child’s name was in bold, and a bit out of sync with the other text. The people in the books never quite matched my friends, either – the hair/eye/skin color would be different, and the pronouns never completely matched up.
I had read other Parent Bloggers’ positive reviews of the new personalized books for children, but I quite honestly didn’t quite believe them. The Print-a-Kid website says they have text designed for preschoolers, and some for grade-schoolers, but I figured I was best off getting a preschool version one for LG (4), as she would like it no matter what – her older sisters are a bit fussier about books.
LG’s book arrived very quickly after placing the order, which was a pleasant surprise. I had chosen the Wacky Christmas Journey, and I was very impressed at how well-made and well-designed it is. I also belatedly realized that I should have bought two more in the grade-school version, as BG (9) and MG (7) were both very disappointed that they are only side characters in the story.
The book says it is “A Book for [LG]” on the cover, and has a dedication (“To our Gaggle of Girls, Love Mommy and Daddy”) that are personalized before you even get to the story. I skipped those the first time to make it a surprise, and it took a moment of reading before LG realized the book was about her – and then her grin spread across her face. The story is personalized for LG’s blonde hair and blue eyes, uses pronouns correctly, and uses our family members’ names throughout the story. Having your name in any story is enchanting (even if it has nothing to do with you!), but having a story that is clearly about you and your family means that your parents can’t read anything else at bedtime for weeks. *ahem* Thankfully, because her sisters’ names were in the story, everyone enjoyed having it read to them over and over and over… The storyline was fun, too, with a few unexpected twists – who knew that reindeer could pull you through an ornament and on to the North Pole?
The book itself is well made: a sturdy binding, good quality paper, text that flows nicely, and images that have your child’s eye, hair, and skin tone – and with girls the hair length, too. The side-characters are only visible in such a way that you can’t identify them. BG, MG, and I discussed this, and how much more difficult (and therefore more expensive) it would be to make all the characters have the right hair, eye, and skin color. Suddenly it made sense to them why you only see someone as they are carrying ornaments, or their back going up a ladder.
What was particularly endearing is that the lines given to my children actually fit their personalities! That was a wonderful surprise. While the storyline is not Caldecott Award material, it is infinitely better than the storylines of the personalized books when I was a child, and therefore exceeded my expectations. I’m going to have to buy the older versions for my other two daughters soon, and I’ll see how the story holds up for older kids. We are also very curious about some of the other personalized books, there’s a lot of interest in the space robots book and the princess’ kingdom book especially! My daughters and I spent quite a lot of time on the website researching which other books we could have chosen. Right now, they all look great – er, except that we homeschool, so the school book might not be the best fit for us!
The one thing that was disappointing for my daughters is that you couldn’t include your pets in the story. One of our pets has a human name (Jack), but it wouldn’t quite work to say he was their brother or friend… That’s really a minor complaint, but we suggest that if they add another story to their selection that they choose one that involves kids and their pets. The one other minor complaint is from the “Designated Reader” – now LG tries to say she is any blonde haired/blue-eyed girl in any other story, and it becomes frustrating by the 12th time per book…
We highly recommend the Print-a-Kid personalized children’s books, and think they would make a wonderful holiday, birthday, or “just because” gift. Some kids are lucky enough to have entire series of books with main characters who share their name, while other kids look in vain for characters that share their name. The Print-a-Kid books even the playing field and make all the kids feel special.