Our Story

Our Story

Elephant Books was brought to life by three friends and colleagues who share a love of reading real books. Not only do we love reading, we believe that an early introduction to books played a critical role in our own development by encouraging curiosity, love of learning, and perhaps most of all, imagination. Our goal is helping children and families make that same discovery themselves.

Recalling fond memories of the local library and old-school traditions like checking out books with library cards and collecting stacks of favorite books at home to build a personal collection, we have set out to create a service that is firmly anchored in real world experiences. The Elephant Books team strives each month to not only identify and deliver the best new, quality books on the market but also to provide a set of fun and engaging tools to make family reading more meaningful.

While the digital world has brought many benefits, it also means children face an increasing array of demands on their attention at this pivotal point in their development. In this context, introducing children to the simple pleasures of books becomes even more fundamental. They need and deserve reading experiences that involve more than turning on a machine. There’s never been a better time to fully appreciate and understand the importance and value of real books.

Our aspiration is simple: Real Books. Shared Experiences. Life Long Memories. That’s Elephant Books.

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Meet the Team

Valerie Friedholm

I’m a mother of four children ranging from pre-school to middle school, and while I’m by no means an expert on raising children, I do have some experience. The question of what to get for the kids was first posed by my mother about my eldest and repeated multiple times every year. I quickly came to the conclusion that another plastic toy was not the correct answer. We lived in Boston in a small apartment. Space was at a premium. The inspiration for Elephant Books was partially born when I finally answered my mother’s question with “give them an experience.”

I really didn’t know what this meant but I knew we didn’t need more stuff. I was searching for more quality time with each other. Tickets to special events in the city are always welcome but as I get older I am also able to find the special in every day activities. My favorite is the 15-20 minutes at the end of the day we spend reading together. My mom could give them books and I was thrilled. Then, she could read to them when she was visiting. Why not build a company around this idea? Create a fun experience where children can build their own personalized libraries and families can create memories together.

My eldest has moved on and prefers the quiet time before bed by herself, but I still have my five-year-old! I’m hanging onto these moments together. Many nights as I read with him, my eight-year-old will wander in to listen to the story with us. She is now old enough that I can let her read us the story. I love the inflection in her voice when she gets into a story.
I’m lucky, because of Elephant Books I always have new picture books coming through my house, and I guess my baby may be a little spoiled. But if you are going to spoil a child, having too many books is a good way to do it.

Trudy Nicolay-Deutz

I’m a former marketing start-up junkie, mom to the best teenager I know, wife to a busy entrepreneur, and most recently, one of the co-founders of Elephant Books. It’s been an interesting road that led me to Elephant Books and I couldn’t be happier about my new career path. Living and working in the Silicon Valley area, it’s not surprising my early marketing career focused on technology. I was particularly drawn to new, burgeoning companies that were developing exciting solutions in the digital world. I liked being on the ground floor of something new and the camaraderie of like-minded people invested in a common goal.

So, when I got pregnant at 39-years-old and decided to leave my job and focus on my new baby, my world was more than a little turned upside down. The hours were still long, but they now often started at 5 am. My team-collaboration work sessions now consisted of rallying other new moms for play-dates, early morning stroller walks, and email exchanges on the best way to wean a baby from a pacifier.

I made a personal choice to focus on my family at a stage in my life when I could have propelled my career. Even when the job offers stopped coming, former colleagues didn’t request advice anymore, and I took to wearing workout clothes seven days a week, there was still no question in my mind that I made the best decision for me. However, when that “baby” of mine hit her teenage years, her growing excitement and exuberance about independently embracing new challenges inspired me to look toward my next chapter.

My life took another turn when a former work colleague and I were discussing ideas for a baby shower gift. After debating appropriate clothing sizes for newborns and if yellow was really the best color to keep the gift gender neutral, we finally landed on children’s books. It led us to recall all the great memories we had as kids with our favorite reads, visiting libraries with old-school card catalogs, and fondly reading our most beloved books over and over again. That conversation quickly led to the idea behind Elephant Books.

Not only do I personally love reading, I love reading books. Real books with pages I can turn and dog-ear to mark special passages. I not only have stacks of my favorites, I collected my daughter’s favorites throughout her childhood, too. Sure, they’re a little tattered here and there, some pages have remnants of spilled hot chocolate and a few even have some crayon markings throughout. But I wouldn’t trade them for even brand new first editions.

Each and every book in my daughter’s early book collection has personal memories etched in them lovingly. I only wish she drew on them more, wrote her name in them each time they were read and created an even more personalized library. I plan on giving all those cherished books to her one day; maybe at her wedding or even her first baby shower.

It’s easy to understand what drew me to help create Elephant Books. After spending more than a decade having the most fun raising a pretty great kid, I came back to the workforce with a new passion. I love kids, I believe in books, and I can’t imagine a better job than combining both of my passions.

Stephen Murray

I wasn’t an early reader. Sometimes that’s just the way it is with kids. As my mother, an educator of thirty-plus years is fond of saying: with kids and reading, at some point it just clicks. That point—from being read to, to doing the reading—is not something you can put on a schedule. It just happens in its own time.

I remember when it happened for me. It was the first chapter book I read myself sometime late in the second grade. I can still tell you the title of the book. I can also remember my favorite picture book and the hours upon hours my mother and father read to me. I may not have been an early reader, but I loved being read to. I probably drove my parents to distraction asking them to read the same book over and over and then correcting them because every once in a while they’d try to skip a page or hurry things up to try to get me to bed.

Once reading did “click” with me, I became that kid. You know the one. The one with his nose always buried in the pages of something new. The one who thought the best day of the week was the one you went to the library. And, yes, the one who sometimes had to be dragged out of the house on a sunny day because there were too many things interesting going on between the pages of a book.

Reading is undoubtedly an obsession, but one about which I have no guilt. In fact, I have an intense amount of gratitude to my parents for their patience in getting me to read and their encouragement of it. It may be a cliché, but reading opened whole new worlds. A lot of my achievements in life I attribute to the education and curiosity that reading instilled and enabled.
Which brings me in a roundabout way to Elephant Books. Career-wise I’ve been fortunate. I’ve worked for huge companies and venture-funded startups. I’ve lived all over the US and now live abroad in London. I’ve managed big P&Ls and taken ideas from notes on a piece of paper to ongoing businesses. I left a lot of that behind, though, and traded a job in banking for Elephant Books.

What prompted the move? I wanted to do something with people I liked, trusted, and with whom I enjoyed spending time. I wanted to build something I truly believed in, something that I had a passion for and actually has real benefit and impact. Elephant Books may seem a radical departure for an ex-banker/ consultant/ product guy, but in so many ways it is like coming home. I’m a lucky guy. I get to work with people who are actual friends on a something (books) that I’ve loved as long as I can remember. Sharing the passion of reading with kids and parents is something so natural it does not even feel like work. . . now, that’s incredibly special!



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