Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Awesome custom children’s book: Following Featherbottom
Following Featherbottom written by Phil Haussler, illustrated by Brad Sneed and web-ified by Ken Wiebke is a tribute to the child for whom it’s customized, a gift given unique to the child. There are plenty of customized books on the market, but this is the first one to catch my eye. It’s different for a lot of reasons.
The story follows Felix Featherbottom, a stork tasked with thinking up the perfect name for a child who just happens to have your own child’s name, gender and birth date. The stork flies to countries around the world sequentially collecting letters that appear in your child’s name.
Each letter is pulled from a city, country or continent’s name. A is for Argentina, Antarctica, Amsterdam or Athens. B is for Bordeaux, France or Brooklyn, New York. And so on.
When you customize the book through its website, you choose which locations you want to use for each letter. Most letters of the alphabet contain two choices, but common letters have as many as four choices. You’re good to go as long as your kid doesn’t have too many odd repeating letters in his name.
Every step of the way you can see large, customized versions of your pages (your mouse pointer doesn’t always indicate it, but yes, the images are clickable).
A banner appears on the bottom of each story page showing the progression as your child’s name gets completed (e.g., the full name isn’t visible until the end of the story). And that ending includes a world map showing the locations where each letter was obtained.
Several things make Featherbottom different:
1. Fantastic illustrations. It’s the first thing you notice.
2. Rhyming that works. Most non-Dr. Seuss rhyming stories seem forced.
3. A storyline where the appearance of your child’s name is natural, not Mad Libs.
4. A website that shows you the entire book, right down to letting you swap out pages. I mentioned the website builder along with the author and illustrator above because he’s done an excellent job of showing you exactly what you’re buying.
You can customize your child’s first and last name, gender, birth date and color of the book’s hardcover. Include the middle name for $5 more (the fee is because the extra name adds a page for every letter). You can also include a stanza for free mentioning your child’s nickname if he has one. And of course, the gift giver can have a custom inscription printed on the cover page.
I receive a lot of pitches for see-your-kid-in-the-story customized books. They usually feature cheesy photo cut-outs of your child’s head printed in poorly illustrated pages with a horrifically inane storyline.
So when Thinga-reader Phil e-mailed me last night with a meek mention of his little side project, I was prepared to roll my eyes. However… at every step of exploring this book it’s clear everyone involved hit the ball out of the park. Awesome.
And by side project, I mean this dad has a day job and here I am exchanging e-mails with him at 11 p.m. on the west coast while he’s 2 hours ahead of me. The book seems to be something of a labor of love, and quite clearly meticulously planned.
I see grandparents buying the book for their grandchildren. I see parents buying the book up through primary school. I see friends buying the book for baby showers. Oh yes, you can specify the baby’s birth date as “don’t know” and the story is adjusted to make sense.
My 5-year-old would enjoy this story because there’s substance to it and I like it because of its focus on a global perspective.
When you look at the enlarged images on the website, you’ll notice fine print that lists all of the words that go with the page’s letter. For example, N for North Pole has nachos, a net, night, the North Pole sign, northern lights and a narwhal.
Wait, a narwhal? The locations and subjects selected for the story are delightfully not typical. Including the roughest, toughest unicorn of the sea in a children’s story has awesomeness written all over it, even if he has a friendly smile.