When our first grandchild was born, I was enveloped with the sense of continuity, similar to the feeling that I had when my first child was born. I could almost viscerally feel the past flowing through me to the future, to him. It was a new sensation and it was rather wonderful.
So, when our grandson was born and he was named after my father, a wonderful man he’d never get to know, I was compelled to help Avery see the past. I wanted to give him a sense of our family and how it might manifest itself in who he could grow to be. I wanted to tell him his backstory.
Since I’m a writer and a booklover, I was inspired to put that story into words and see those words in print. I decided I should present to him the story of his family as a picture book with words and photos.
So I began…
“Every little boy comes from two different sides.
Each of them fills his life with pride.
From all sides you get what makes you be you.
This book is the story of what came from who.
Your name, Avery Shayn, comes from your Grammy’s Dad.
His “S” name was Sidney and he shared all he had.
Wear his name with pride. It’s a good one for sure.
You’re named for someone whose heart was so pure.”
I used a photo of my father holding my first baby, Avery’s mother, Alexis. Next to that, I placed a photo of newborn Avery wearing his “S” onesie with the Superman logo.
From there, I crafted rhymes about each member of our family, starting with my husband and me and then adding each of our daughters.
The rhymes were simple, describing one fact about each person. I wrote four lines for each person and used a baby photo and a current, grownup photo so he’d recognize everyone in the book.
There are lots of online sites where you can create hardcover books by writing your own text and uploading your photos to create a custom work. I’m not going to say it was an easy job, because it did take me quite a bit of time to get the look I wanted and to perfect the layout. But it was the ultimate labor of love. I had a blast working on it. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction.
I gave him the gift for his first birthday and have been reading it to him ever since. It’s one of his favorite books.
He loves seeing the pictures of the people he loves in a real book. For a while he called it, “The G Book,” when he’d request it to be read to him. He calls my husband “G” and just got a kick out of seeing “G” in this book.
I’ve helped others make these gift books and I’ve made some for people who don’t think they can do so without help. If you’d like to tackle this fun project, I suggest you take some time to think about the main ideas you’d like to pass along.
You could also develop a theme that can be the arc of your family story. For example, I wrote one for a family in which for generations their last names have had “Gold” or “Silver” in some form as part of the name. The theme I crafted for them was silver and gold. The opening line was:
“Silver and Gold are precious metals, it’s true.
But nothing in the world is more precious than you.”
Once you have your facts written, you can look for photos to use. Since it’s a children’s book, I recommend you use one photo per page on most pages and limit the number of words. If you have more photos you’d like to have in the book, you can always have a few pages where you collage a group of photos without words.
Do you ever tell your grandson or granddaughter stories about their family history? What do you think of the idea of putting these stories into a real book? Please join the conversation.