I’m So Vain, I Probably Think This Book Is About Me
Today we’re going to talk about what happens when your name is so common, it shows up in children’s books willy-nilly without actually having anything to do with YOU. Which is to say, me.
I took my name willingly. No parent in their right mind should name a child “Betsy Bird” after all. When I met my future husband it was, I will admit, one of the first things I realized. “If I marry this guy I could be . . . Betsy Bird!” So the die was cast. You can do something like that to your own name. When my own kids were born, however, I realized what a great responsibility a noun-based last name is. And not just any noun. An animal. So out the window went possible names like Robin, Soren, Colin (think about the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”), Claude, Charlie, Larry, and any first name beginning with the letter “B”. My husband and I broke the “no two nouns” rule, but at this moment in time I’m the only alliterative name in the family.
What I hadn’t counted on was how common it would be to find my name in children’s books. I sort of suspected. It happens in books for adults, after all. Little Big by John Crowley (which is definitely not a book for kids) has a “Betsy Bird” in it. And as for the name “Mrs. Bird” you can find it in everything from Buck’s Tooth to P.D. Eastman’s The Best Nest (where Mrs. Bird is a shrieking harridan, so I try not to read too much into that one). Mrs. Birds are a dime a dozen, it seems.
I do occasionally show up in children’s books, though. Sometimes clearly. Other times I try to read between the lines (and fail). As of this post there are only two instances of clear cut references. They are:
The Librarian in Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever
This is only because artist LeUyen Pham is the nicest human being alive. So in one scene Windy Pants is discussing what appears to be Junie B. Jones with this person:
In future books in the series, the librarian looks entirely different.
The only other time it happened was, in all books . . .
A Very Babymouse Christmas
In this book various alliterative animals are having their names called. Including (and off-camera):
There is also a bird librarian in the first Platypus Police Squad title The Frog That Croaked. The book takes place in Kalamazoo City and the librarian is a bird. I’m from Kalamazoo and my name IS Bird. However, this is probably just coincidental. After all, my mohawk is nowhere near as nice as hers.
This year I’ve also noticed a significant uptick in “Mrs. Birds” in middle grade novels. Women who are NOT me. Not even slightly. But folks do ask me from time to time, so to set the record straight . . .
The First Grade Teacher in The Best Man by Richard Peck
Is not me. She a bit dippy, so you’d be forgiven for mistaking us, but though I do own the occasional corduroy skirt, she’s not me.
Nor am I the mom in the next Rita Williams-Garcia book. A great sounding title (coming out in 2017) I can’t remember the actual title but it involves a love of jazz. As such, the mom is Mrs. Bird, probably because of Charlie “Bird” Parker.
I suspect that there are other children’s librarians out there who have accidentally found themselves within the pages of a children’s book in the past. Maybe even as the librarian his or her own self. If you have ’em, confess ’em! We the commonly monikered should stick together. And if you’ve been in the pages of a book thanks to the efforts of a kindly illustrator, tell me that too! I’d love to have a working list of librarians that appear in books by great artists.
Thanks to Travis Jonker who suggested that I write a post called “I’m (Not) So Vain, I Probably Think This Book Isn’t About Me”. That is because he is a nice guy. My post’s title is probably a little more on the nose-y.
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
SLJ Blog Network
U.S. Gov: ‘All Books Must Have Round Corners’
Review of the Day – Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories by Jarvis
Review: Swim Team
Write What You Know. Read What You Don’t, a guest post by Lauren Thoman
The Classroom Bookshelf is Moving