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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

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In Kids & Family

Consumers can personalize "That's My Cat" and other books for their own kids.

In Kids & Family

Children's book author Jan Krystkowiak, who grew up in Merrill and graduated from UWM, has five kids and three dogs.

In Kids & Family

Krystkowiak's husband, Larry, is a former Bucks player and coach.

In Kids & Family

Customers can personalize the stories to make kids and their pets the central characters.

In Kids & Family

One of Krystkowiak's books is called "I Don't Want to Move."

Krystkowiak adds personal touch to children's books


We interrupt this Web-surfing session for a combination quiz / stroll down memory lane:

What was your favorite book to read as a child?

Maybe it was "Goodnight Moon." Or, possibly, "The Cat in the Hat." Perhaps, it was "The Complete Winnie the Pooh" or "Curious George."

Chances are, your favorite book did not feature you and your beloved family pet as the central characters.

Jan Krystkowiak would like to change that for your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, God-children, neighborhood kids and any other children who enjoy reading.

Krystkowiak, a UWM graduate and the wife of former Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak, is the owner of Where In The World Books, a publishing company that has unveiled a set of personalized children's books that allow the purchaser to create a personalized story about the book's recipient.

Customers input a child's first and last name -- and in some cases a pet's or best friend's name -- and choose illustrations appropriate to the story. The illustrations and name are incorporated into the story line, and through a state of the art technology called variable data printing, their names are incorporated into the photography and illustrations.

The collection of personalized books currently includes seven stories -- "You Name It," "(Child's name) is Pink and White and Cute All Over," "An Amazing Day at the Zoo with (child's name)," "An Amazing Day at the Beach with (child's name)," "I Want to Read My Name in Lights" and two pet-themed stories -- "That's My Dog, (pet's name)" and "That's My Cat, (pet's name)."

Proceeds from the sale of the two pet books will benefit animal charities, including the Humane Animal Welfare Society in Waukesha.

"Reading is so important for kids. It's really the key to everything," Krystkowiak said by phone last week from her home near San Diego, where she and her family -- Larry, five kids, three dogs, two bearded dragons and a gecko -- settled after the Bucks fired Larry following the 2007-08 season.

"Research shows that when a story is personalized a child's curiosity is enhanced and they better identify with the story line and with the characters.

"When a story reflects things that are familiar in a child's personal life, it is more meaningful. Stories that are meaningful will enhance a child's motivation to read, help children stay focus and improve retention of what they have read."

Krystkowiak began writing children's books in 2003. Her first effort, "The Tale of Fatty Catty," was followed by "I Don't Want to Move," which was inspired by her own kids' reaction to their father's nomadic profession.

"Moving can be tough for kids," Krystkowiak said. "We did it so much that we always tried to turn it into a positive. I came up with a list of things that our kids told us and thought it would make a good book."

Krystkowiak quickly came to realize that there are thousands of authors out there with good ideas for children's books.

"It's the hardest market there is," she said. "I wanted something that would make us stand out from every other book out there.

"We needed something different."

Krystkowiak, who also operates a marketing company, got the idea for personalizing books several years ago -- but didn't act right away.

"I sold variable data (printing) years ago and I asked "Why hasn't anyone done children's books?" People told me that it was too expensive. That was in 1999. A couple years ago, I said 'I'm going for it.'

"I had seen personalized books before, but it was always just the text that was personalized. We were able to go one step farther and personalize all the photos and illustrations. With the pet books, you can choose from a bunch of different breeds of dogs and four different colors of cats.

"That makes us stand out."

Krystkowiak's personalized books contain simple stories geared toward beginning readers. The personalized touches, with the child's name worked into artist Kimberly Schwede's multi-colored illustrations and photos (some taken by Krystkowiak herself), appeal to older kids, too.

"I showed them to a friend who has twin 12-year-old boys," Krystkowiak said. "They are the king of negative. They loved them. They thought they were cool."

The books, which cost $21.95 apiece, are bound and not stapled. Parents have the opportunity to make a 250-word dedication on the title page, which adds another personal touch along with seeing the child (or pet's) name throughout the books on chairs, signs, in the sand, in the sky and in the surf.

"This is the kind of book that kids will want to keep," Krystkowiak said. "The other books may get donated or sold at rummage sales, but everybody says that these are books that kids will keep."

Krystkowiak plans to unveil a new book that will incorporate children's pictures.

"It's a takeoff of the "I Spy" books and the "Where in the World" books," she said. "We'll have scenes from eight plays in the world. Let's say you look at Egypt -- there will be all kinds of kids crammed on the page doing different things. The kids will have to find themselves in the story line.

"There are some other things that we'll be able to do. Hopefully, we can sell some books and make some money for charity."


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