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Category: names from children’s books

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seusss

By Laura Miller Brennan

Say

Look at our bookshelves!

One, two three…

How many Seuss books

Do I see?

How can it be that our family owns only eight of his classics, not counting poetry within other children’s anthologies or the duplicate, dog-eared copies of The Cat in The Hat?  He wrote 40+ books in his lifetime, and the work of Theodor Seuss Geisel is ingrained in the English lexicon.  Still, we take Dr. Seuss’ contributions for granted ‘ever so muchly’ that most of us pronounce his name incorrectly.  Geisel’s mother’s German maiden name Seuss actually rhymes with “voice”, not “use” (as in, “the Simplest Seuss for youngest use”).  It’s rumored that he didn’t mind, due to the sound-alike quality of ‘Seuss’ to children’s author Mother Goose.  In any case, the ultimate Seuss-ism could be naming one’s child in homage to him.  Here is a nearly-exhaustive list of Seuss names…

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kidbkblog

Last week we found some great names for girls in beloved children’s books, and now it’s the boys’ turn. But to avoid the risk of their commandeering the list, we’re ignoring all the Harry Potter, Twilight, Hobbit and Narnia franchise boys in favor of heroes and supporting players from a variety of sources– picture books to classic tales to YA novels. As always, it’s tough to pick a dozen best from all the endless possibilities, but here is our list of Top 13 storybook names for boys.

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alliteration

They snap, crackle, and pop—which is one reason why alliterative names are so widely used for the characters in children’s stories—from nursery rhymes like ‘Wee Willie Winkie’ to picture books like Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel to Young Adult book characters like Harry Potter‘s Luna Lovegood.

 Here, the distinguished name scholars Don and Alleen Nilsen present some of the many examples of alliteration, consonance, rhyming and other wordplay they have found in the names of kid-lit characters.

We were just pondering The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter, Peter Pan by James Barrie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli and we were wondering how often authors repeat the sounds of their vowels and consonants in their character names.

We soon thought about Lewis Carroll’s Pig and Pepper, his Frog and the Footman, and his Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and this led our thoughts to The White Knight and Humpty Dumpty two more characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Then we thought of a set of characters in Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth that includes The Duke of Definition, the Minister of Meaning, the Earl of Essence, and the Count of Connotation.

The protagonist in Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi is Piscine Patel.  His name is shortened to Pi Patel, and he has to explain to people that pi is 3.14 as he draws a large circle and slices it in two with a diameter to evoke a basic lesson of geometry.

In Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, there is a John-John.  In Cynthia Kadohata’s Weedflower there is a Takao who goes by the nickname of “Tak-Tak.”  In Robert Cormier’s After the First Death there is a General named Mark Marchand, and in his The Chocolate War, there is Larry LaSalle who changes his name to “Lieutenant Laurence LaSalle” when he becomes famous.  In Polly Horvath’s The Canning Season, there is a character named Aunt Pen Pen, and one named Ratchet Ratchet Clark.

In Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, the only girl in the Salamander Army is named Petra Arkanian, but she is called Baby Butt and Petra the Poet by her friends and in the Lemony Snicket books, two of the guardians of the Baudelaire children are named Montgomery Montgomery, and Dewey Denouement.

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Lemony Snicket Names

lemony

We are honored to have as today’s guest bloggers Don and Alleen Nilsen, recent co-chairmen of the prestigious American Name Society, writing about the clever use of literary allusions in the thirteen Lemony Snicket books.

As long-distance grandparents, we are constantly on the lookout for books that we can enjoy listening to on CDs while we commute to work and can then forward to our children to enjoy with their children while they make their own commutes.  Daniel Handler’s thirteen Lemony Snicket books have been the all-time winners in this category, and one of the reasons is Handler’s skill in recycling the names of literary or pop culture figures to make playful allusions.

Humor scholars use the term Wabbit literacy (from “that wascally wabbit” in the Bugs Bunny cartoons) to describe the flip-flop process in which children become acquainted with the names of classical figures through pop culture allusions prior to meeting the  same names in “the original.”  The Lemony Snicket books are a superb illustration of this process as children meet Dr. Georgina Orwell, an eye doctor who hangs an ever-watchful eye over her door; Uncle Monty, who as a herpetologist cares for a huge python; a villainous couple named Esmé and Jerome Squalor who live at 667 Dark Avenue, c.f. J. D. Salinger‘s short story “To Esmé with Love and Squalor,” and Mr. Poe, who has a son named Edgar and is the appointed guardian of the children’s inheritance which is placed in the Mulctuary Money Management Bank.

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Children’s Book Names: From Aidan to Zoe

Baby Name Trends

While browsing through a recent issue of The New Yorker magazine, I came across an article about the current generation of picture books and their bratty protagonists.  It was illustrated by an image from a book called Finn Throws a Fit.  Aha, I thought, so juvenile authors are on top of current naming trends.  This impelled me to go running (figuratively) to my local Borders to seek further evidence.

One difference I noticed immediately was that there were more little human protagonists and fewer of the porcine (excluding Olivia), feline, canine, bovine, etc persuasion than there were in the past, and there were, as the article pointed out, a lot more angry children populating the pages, and a lot more preoccupation with poop and farts.

In terms of names, I was surprised to see that there was a book title containing almost every currently popular choice—almost as many as there are on the personalized pencils in the airport—a big upswing from the past.  Here are some titles all released since the turn of the century–and they’re just the tip of the iceberg!:

Girls

AVA and the Magic Tutu

CHLOE’S Snowy Day

CLEMENTINE

CONSTANCE and the Great Escape

ELIZA and the Dragonfly

HARRIET, You’ll Drive Me Wild

ISABEL’S Car Wash

My Name is Not ISABELLA

IVY and Bean

JUNIE B., First Grader

The Adventures of LAILA and MAYA

LILLY’s Big Day

Let’s Find LUCY

MAISY series

MERCY Watson series

Fancy NANCY series

OLIVIA

RUBY’S FALLING LEAVES

Silly SOPHIA

When SOPHIE Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry

TALLULAH in the Kitchen

I, TRIXIE

Goodnight, my sweet VIOLET

WILLA and the Wind, WILLA the Wonderful

WILLOW

ZOE‘s Tale, ZOE‘s Hats, ZOE and CHLOE on the Prowl

BOYS

AIDAN’S First Full Moon Circle

BARNABY Bear

BRAYDEN, BRAYDEN, Who Do You See?

COOPER‘S Lesson

DEWEY! There’s a Cat in the Library

DEXTER Gets Dressed

JAYDEN‘s Rescue

JULIUS, The Baby of the World

KYLE’s First Crush

LIAM Goes Poo in the Toilet

MILO series

MILTON’s Secret

OLIVER Who Would Not Sleep

OSCAR: The Big Adventure of a Little Sock Monkey

OTIS

OWEN

PHINEAS & Ferb series

Flat STANLEY series

WALTER the Farting Dog series

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