The story of how The Elephant’s Trunk was born
What do you get when you combine a love of writing stories with a career in intellectual disability nursing and add to this mix your mum getting rid of your Ladybird books? The answer is The Elephant’s Trunk.
This is exactly what inspired our mission to celebrate the differences between children, by giving them and their parents access to a wonderful world of truly diverse, personalised children’s books.
So, here’s how The Elephant’s Trunk was born. Like all good stories, we should start with, “Are you sitting comfortably?” If so, then we’ll begin.
Picture the Republic of Ireland back in the Eighties, when a young Teresa (co-founder of The Elephant’s Trunk) was a schoolgirl.
She loved stories and won prizes for her writing. As she grew into her teenage years, she turned to writing poetry and indeed continues to write poetry to this day. She also kept diaries when she was young, but her mum had a clear out and got rid of them, along with Teresa’s beloved Ladybird books (we’ll come back to them later).
But despite a clear love of literature and a talent for storytelling, Teresa didn’t then pursue her passion.
“If I’d said I wanted to be a writer, I’d have been told I was living in cloud cuckoo land. We were guided at school to very different careers. In fact, I was being steered towards banking and I didn’t even like maths.”
But a visit to a residential home for people with intellectual disabilities did inspire Teresa. She applied for a job and here began her long career in nursing.
Remember the Ladybird books? Teresa was unexpectedly reunited with them during her nursing training. Her lecturer brought in some second-hand children’s books to help the student nurses learn about childhood and play. It just so happened that the books she brought in were Teresa’s, complete with her name, age and address written inside the cover. It was a source of great amusement to the student nursing cohort!
Fast forward a few years and Teresa has moved to the UK, is living in Scotland and continuing with nursing, working in many healthcare settings – in hospitals, residential homes and in the community.
It was while she was in Scotland that she met her life partner and co-founder of The Elephant’s Trunk, Derek Bellamy.
Derek is the other half of the brains behind The Elephant’s Trunk. Derek’s background is in engineering project management for multinational companies and essentially, he is now applying this experience to project manage a rather different venture – personalised children’s books.
Together, they bring complementary skills. Derek’s role is operations, while Teresa brings the creative flair, to ensure that, through The Elephant’s Trunk, children and families can access truly diverse personalised books.
They have plenty of experience of children too. Between them, Teresa and Derek have six children and eight grandchildren and they all LOVE The Elephant’s Trunk books.
But we’ve jumped forward a little. Just how and why did they come up with the idea of The Elephant’s Trunk?
While Teresa’s mum may have thrown out the Ladybird books and diaries, Teresa kept hold of her poetry and carried on writing. Teresa was a member of writers’ groups in Scotland and, when the couple returned to Ireland in 1999, she joined groups there too. Writing continued to figure and Teresa wrote stories for the couple’s children and, when they came along, their grandchildren too.
Then a friend asked how she would feel if she became a published writer.
“I wasn’t at all sure at first and was worried about putting something out there that people could review and criticise. But then I thought, ‘you know what, I am going to do it, come hell or high water!’ and, for me, failure wasn’t an option.”
At first, Teresa began writing a novel and entered it into a competition, where the winner is matched with a literary agent. She was picked and the agent wanted her book. The book was still a work in progress, but the fact that an agent was interested was a real vote of confidence in Teresa’s writing.
The success gave her the impetus she needed to follow her first dream, of writing children’s books. Remember the Ladybird saga? Teresa had never forgotten what those books meant to her. She wanted to write books that would also inspire children, but ALL children from ALL backgrounds. She’d already created personalised stories for her own children; she knew from her nursing that diversity and inclusivity was underrepresented in children’s literature. Put these two together and The Elephant’s Trunk was born.
So, where did the name come from? You’ll see from our logo we have an elephant sitting on a trunk stuffed full of books. He loves reading, we love reading and we want our readers to love reading. As the saying goes, an elephant never forgets. Teresa never forgot her Ladybird books.
So that, in a nutshell, is the story behind The Elephant’s Trunk. Like our books, this is a personal story – personal to Teresa, Derek and centred around their passion for creating books that include all children. We hope you love them. You can browse all our books here. Happy reading.