I have a coaster on my desk that not only has my name written on it, but also includes the definition: ‘Judith is well organised, friendly and artistic; she has a flair for writing – a talented lady.’ To the outside world, it would seem I’m in need of personal validation along with my daily cuppa! In fact, it does seem that there’s an interesting psychology behind personalising things – seeing our name on something undoubtedly affects us. For example, research has shown that a unique reaction in the brain takes place when you hear your own first name read aloud. It might be a feeling of excitement (remember hearing your name called out on Prize Giving day?); it might be dread (remember being called to the head teacher’s office?), but you and your name are inextricably and emotionally connected.
Research has shown that a unique reaction in the brain takes place when you hear your own first name read aloud.
While you can buy almost anything with your name printed on it these days, there’s something special about reading a book that has been personalised, especially for you. When I was a child, a ‘personalised’ book meant having a fancy name-plate sticker inside the front cover; or writing my name in clumsy crayon inside my favourite fairy tale. Today, there is a myriad of personalised books available for children, with their name printed on every page. So what makes one better than another? The Open University recently examined the role personalised books play in helping children develop language and cognitive skills and came to some interesting conclusions. According to their research, stories that are about ‘us’ do actually help us make sense of our lives. In fact, the study showed that children learn fastest when they feel part of a story: they are more open to learning new words and develop language skills much earlier. Significantly, in order to achieve this, personalised books shouldn’t be entirely focused on the child, however. Instead, they should tell a meaningful story: one that the child feels they play an important part in, but that also gives them an opportunity to learn about the world they live in.
Personalised books shouldn’t be entirely focused on the child. Instead, they should tell a meaningful story.
And that’s exactly what Tom Percival and Tuire Siiriainen’s book Message in a Bottle achieves. It’s a wonderful tale of adventure, bravery and friendship that involves ‘you’ at the heart of the story. Yet, it’s so much more than that. It encourages you to think about the Big Wide World (and some very interesting animals) as you join Kiki in her journey across the globe. There’s even a map showing Kiki’s route to the child’s country, with a flag to show the final destination.
So what makes Message in a Bottle unique? Unlike many other personalised books, the child’s name is not simply placed on a page – resulting in an identical book for any other child with the same name. Message in a Bottle is the only personalised children’s book that involves both the child and the book-giver in the storyline. The message that Kiki delivers is not simply a printed dedication to a loved-one. The book-giver plays an active role in the storytelling process: their message is the focus of the tale. This special relationship between the child, the book-giver and Kiki enriches the storyline and you can’t help but share Kiki’s excitement and sense of achievement when your message is finally delivered. All of this generates a unique reading experience that your child will want to repeat over and over again.
The book-giver plays an active role in the storytelling process: their message is the focus of the tale.
It’s also important to point out that the personalised element of Message in a Bottle is not just limited to the child’s name. Their address appears on both the text and the illustrations throughout the book. And speaking of illustrations, the drawings in Message in a Bottle are truly special. They bring Kiki’s tale to life in a burst of colour, humour and imagination. Alice in Wonderland once said some very wise words when she observed, ‘What is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?’ And that’s exactly what Message in a Bottle delivers: it’s a perfect picture book that will absorb you and your child in a very special conversation.
Many personalised books on the market are gimmicky at best. But Message in a Bottle provides a new kind of personalised book. Printed on quality paper, with beautiful illustrations and a storyline that will delight both adults and children, this is a picture book that you and your child will treasure.
So why not send a message to someone you love this Christmas and make it extra special by letting Kiki deliver it … with a little help from her friends.
Message in a Bottle personalised children’s book
 Sharing Personalised Books: A Practical Solution to the Challenges Posed by Home Book Reading Interventions by Natalia Kucirkova, David Messer, Denise Whitelock, The Open University, UK.
Photos by Foto Iris Irena Szewczyk
Find Judith also on Reedsy.