Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Thank you for joining us for another interview with one of our amazing honorees! For this interview, we were able to speak with Gina Palmer, creator of the delightful six-volume Birthday Books for parents. This Mom’s Choice Award-winning book set gives parents of children from birth through age five a way to celebrate the milestones and memories that mark a child’s early years. With a section dedicated to journaling highlights of each year—as they occur—parents can create a book of memories to cherish and enjoy long into the future. A perfect, unique gift for birthdays and baby showers. Keep reading to find out more about Gina Palmer and her award-winning Birthday Books!
MCA: Gina, we are delighted to have you with us to discuss The Birthday Books! First, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio (O-H!), I now live in Northern Virginia with my husband and three young children. Never — in a million years — did I imagine becoming an author!
Having come from a Midwestern Italian family, celebrations, and traditions are important to me. I’ve always viewed holidays, birthdays, and everything in between as opportunities to connect and build upon our spirit of community, love, and gratitude. Life is too short not to celebrate — a LOT! This spirit of celebration was a motivating factor behind creating “The Birthday Books” — to provide a simple tradition for all families to enjoy for years to come!
I started my professional career in higher education after I earned my master’s in education, and I’ve had the honor of working with some of the country’s most prestigious universities. I transitioned into government consulting, where I was able to support federal agencies. I enjoyed this work so much that I launched my own women-owned small businesses supporting both public and private institutions by improving their strategic performance and reaching their goals.
My parents’ work ethic — and the way they balanced family, work, volunteering, finances, and fun all in a way that kept our family in center focus — is the greatest gift they could have given to me. I hope “The Birthday Books” give other families a chance to focus and build memories together.
MCA: An admirable goal! What was your path to becoming a writer like?
My path to becoming a writer was truly unexpected! I’ve always enjoyed being creative, but putting pen to paper to create something for mass distribution was never something I had considered until I had the idea of “The Birthday Books!”
During the phase of my life when all my friends were having babies, I was always on the hunt for a unique and personalized gift. After searching high and low and not being able to find exactly what I was looking for, the idea of “The Birthday Books” finally hit me! I typed the title into my iPhone notes circa 2019 and jotted little ideas when they popped into my head, but it would be another year or so before I actually started to write the books. While the distance and dystopia of 2020 was challenging, it gave me the moments of reflection, downtime (and insomnia) that I needed to finally spark my creative juices to get the books in motion!
MCA: That sounds like a remarkable journey. Were there other factors at work behind your decision to write The Birthday Books?
I wanted to create something that instilled tradition and was personal for families — unique, but timeless. It was important to me that “The Birthday Books” be more than books; rather, I view them as time capsules. The journal section and birthday wish feature are what really set this book collection apart … it makes it more of a keepsake and a baby book than board book.
I’ve always loved traditions, and as our children grew and began to look forward to the traditions we started or carried on from our families, I realized what important role traditions play in our family DNA. There’s a lot of magic and power (and love) in that!
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in these 6 books?
The six books in the set take parent and child through the journey of birth to age five — magical (exhausting) years! This tradition creates an opportunity to stop, reflect on the year past, and imagine the year ahead. I hope the key lesson of the books is for parents to savor each year, each memory, and each birthday as the wondrous events that they are!
The section in the back of the book that allows parents to write their favorite memories of the year is so special because, as any parent knows, when you try to look back it’s often a blur. Sleepless nights, endless laundry, and myriad tantrums don’t make for the sharpest memories, so having space to journal these events, in real-time or in the year that they happen, is truly a gift to the parent (and the future child who will one day love reading about their earliest triumphs, fails, and adventures). Sometimes our most special memories are the really small things … like when they’re three and can’t pronounce the “r” in orange, or when they call yesterday “lasterday,” or when they refuse to eat anything that’s not the color yellow … that’s the magic!
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Amazing! And we’re so grateful! We’ve been so fortunate to receive such warm and joyful feedback from those who have read “The Birthday Books!” Our most comment feedback from those who’ve received a book as a gift is, “I can’t wait to buy this for my friend/sister/colleague who is pregnant!” It really warms our hearts to know that “The Birthday Tradition” is being shared with families, offices, and communities across the country! The BEST part is seeing all the pictures of our sweet “Birthday Book Babies” who are the first generation of this tradition!
MCA: It’s lovely — the idea of how these books work together over the years. Could you comment on that?
As I sat down to write the books, it was important to me that each year be grounded in developmental milestones. While each child is different and special, I crafted the books to align to the CDC milestones as a way to capture the fundamental growth journey of children.
Our illustrator, Krister Killinger, did such an amazing job of depicting the child’s growth throughout the six books, while carrying through some of the visual nuggets — like the bunny stuffy — from the first book until the fifth birthday. I think it’s so beautiful, and perhaps a bit sad, to show how much a child grows in the first five years. With my own children, I’ve had the wonderful realization that while the parent may write the “memories” and “wishes” for the first few years, it’s not long until your child is contributing what their favorite memories are and what their birthday wishes for the year ahead are — such a wonderful evolution of the book I hadn’t anticipated!
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson (per year, perhaps), what would it be?
Love and cherish your children and the memories that bind you as a family. And I don’t mean “cherish” as in “think whatever they do is perfect”; rather cherish the time you have with them — the good and bad — because every day is a gift, and many families have experienced unimaginable loss and no longer get to experience the daily joy. The little moments matter; I hope we capture that for our readers.
MCA: What is the importance of building reading as a family tradition from day one?
The list goes ON! While we all know that reading to our children will improve their cognitive development, enhance their vocabulary, and boost their focus and memory, I value most the bond that reading as a family establishes. By sharing in the excitement, sadness, and lessons from the stories we read together, we learn from each other, gain insight into our children’s ideas, and have an opportunity to share our experiences. The tradition of reading is a lifelong gift we can give to our children!
MCA: Please tell us about the impact of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) and the families who benefit from their amazing work.
Sadly, I know too many families affected by pediatric cancer. After talking with families and nurses about the organizations they felt were making the most impact, I connected with ALSF and knew they were the right fit! Making lemonade out of lemons — that’s what ALSF does. Their mission is to “change the lives of children with cancer through funding impactful research, raising awareness, supporting families, and empowering everyone to help cure childhood cancer.”
Only about 4 percent of all federal funding for cancer research is spent on programs for children’s diseases. This is why ALL of my proceeds go to ALSF; we have to do more!
I’m a proud partner of ALSF and it’s my honor to donate my proceeds and raise awareness of the organization by dedicating the back cover of the book set to teach others about ALSF.
MCA: What’s next for you as an author?
As a first-time author, I’m enjoying this amazing journey! I’m a walking business plan; there’s no telling when the right balance of creativity and luck will strike again to “imaginate” yet another exciting venture!
MCA: It’s been such a delight learning what your journey has been like so far — and what was behind your first writing endeavor. Hopefully, it will not be your last! Thanks again for speaking with us.
You can learn more about Gina Palmer and her award-winning books, The Birthday Books by visiting her MCA Shop pages.