Welcome to the World: The Amazing Baby Naming Book

HALLIE EPHRON: Naming is a tricky business. I wrote a scene in my first suspense novel, NEVER TELL A LIE, with this back and forth between a married couple (Ivy and David Rose), discussing what they're going to name their about-to-be first born:

“Boogie Rose,” David said as he drove them home in Ivy’s car.  
Traffic on the highway was starting to congeal as the evening rush began in earnest. He glanced over his shoulder and shifted lanes. “What do you think? Works if it’s a boy, works if it’s a girl.” 
“Works if it’s a band,” Ivy said.
“Well, we can’t keep calling her Sprout.”
“Gwyneth Paltrow named her baby Apple.”

It goes on with a few paragraphs of snappy repartee which comprises just about the only bit of dialogue that they used in the Lifetime Movie Network adaptation of the book. 

I am happy to report that name gaming runs in my family. My mother always insisted that a woman's first name was critical in defining her, especially since women got married and (in those days) shed their surnames and with them, a vestige of their originality. (Hence: Nora, Delia, Hallie, Amy. I definitely won the award for most unique but Delia's a close second.)

My husband and I had played that game when I was pregnant, bandying about names like Linoleum and Kapok (fortunately Molly and Naomi won the day.)

I'm trilled to introduce you to my nieces Anna Ephron Harari and Maia Wapnick and my sister Amy Ephron who have written an absolutely irresistible book to help the rest of us come up with the perfect names.

Welcome to the world: THE AMAZING BABY NAMING BOOK!

It all started from a family dinner table game. Or at least we thought we were playing a nice family game. Our mom Amy, apparently, was writing a book. Always multitasking…

It was about 15 years ago and a handful of celebrities were starting to invent names for their children. And that got us thinking there were many other great words that could be names. So we’d take turns constructing little stories about them, like Banister–a great name for an east coast socialite–or Lucite–definitely an artist–or Sequin–an astrologer or maybe astronaut, Abacus–someone you’d want to cheat off in math class.

At the start of the pandemic, Amy revived the idea. By this time each of us had two children, and we could see from the class rosters that what had started as a celebrity subculture had taken hold of the world.

Parents today are looking for names for their kids that are reflective, unusual, and unique. And with so many encyclopedic tomes of baby name books out there, it’s hard to find the right name. Some parents have even turned to personal consultations with name experts. (We didn’t make that up! Though we sort of wish we had...).

We also maintain that among all these amazing one-of-a-kind names that are popping up, there are still so many great opportunities left unturned. There were also all these unsung heroes whose achievements we wanted to honor and celebrate, such as astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who was snubbed for the Nobel Prize, but whose portrait was recently hung in the Royal Society’s Carlton House in London.

Without realizing it, our fun little game evolved into an actual viable name book. And miraculously, Princeton Architectural Press was interested, and the amazing Lynn Grady was our shepherd!

Once we really got into the writing, we knew the illustrations were going to be crucial to create the right tone and vibe.

We were so lucky to work with the uber-talented artist Jennifer Bricking, who had collaborated with Amy on her children’s series, The Other Side. Her whimsical illustrations perfectly capture the levity, humor, and grace against the backdrop of the messy realities of parenthood.

To fill the pages, we pored over the names of gemstones, stars, mountain trails, mythological figures, we read from random pages in the dictionary, we looked at the census, at names of brands, names of colors. Pretty much all colors make great names, by the way.

We laughed a lot and also disagreed (can someone tell Amy IKEA is an incredible name?). And It was hard writing over Zoom, especially with all the difficulties pandemic life presented. It was hard to hear each other with six feet or more between us. And it was hard to stay on task when we were running down all these glorious rabbit holes of etymology, history, geography, and fantasy.

We had a great amount of fun writing this book together, and we hope you have fun reading it!

About the Authors: Sisters Anna Ephron Harari and Maia Wapnick are co-authors, along with their mom, Amy Ephron, of The Amazing Baby Name Book: A (Possibly) Helpful and Slightly Amusing Guide from A to Z. Maia is the VP of Strategy at Hypothesis Group, where she spends her days testing names and analyzing consumer behavior and trends for brands like Toyota, Starbucks, Pinterest, and Disney. She has a four-year old (Zachary) and a 2-year old (Chloe). Anna is a writer/producer/director. Her debut short film was honored at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival. She has a four-year old (Madeline) and a two-year old (Roman).

HALLIE: Need I say more? I was thrilled to find my name listed in the book, though really I'm happy being one of the very few people who have it. (Thanks, Mom!)

The book's got to be the perfect gift for anyone contemplating adding a newborn to their family, or creating characters for a story. Not to mention all the writers on your gift list.  

In this era of inventive naming, are there any names that have caught your fancy of late?