You may not know it if you’re not a member of the Bobbledy Club, but each time we send out a book, we also send some sort of game or puzzle or activity, something we think up and Robbi draws. Something for kids to DO.
Because reading books is all well and good, but what we want most of all is to inspire kids to go out and make their own stuff, whether it’s stories or drawings or . . . robots.
Last week we sent out Peacock and Duck Save Friendship. Those of you who have read it know that the book contains an evil (but misunderstood) robot overlord. I hope I am not spoiling things to say that, after a passage of misdeeds and an entirely justifiable jail term handed down by none other than the Supreme Court, the evil robot in question is offered a new friend robot (the company of which will, ideally, result in better mood and thus behavior for the evil robot in question).
The book concludes before the new friend Robot is constructed, and so we invited readers to help us figure out what this new friend robot would look like.
Here’s the activity sheet we sent:
And here is Bobbledy club member Suki in the process of making her own robot.
While I am admittedly no expert in robotics, I find myself uncommonly impressed with this one. Look what Suki created with only a few bits and pieces to work with!
If such words as “WOW,” and “OH MAN” and “DIGGITY!” are currently escaping your lips, then you, my friend, are not alone.
Let’s take a closer look at this fine piece of engineering.
The only thing that could possibly make me happier is if Suki were to tell us a bit about this robot and its adventures. If such a thing were to happen, we would almost certainly post it here.
If you’d like to construct your own robot friend, you can download the activity page HERE. And if you were to then send us a photo or scan of your robot, we would almost certainly post it here. Go to it!
Monday night, we drove to New York. We had a busy day of meetings planned for Tuesday (with the titans of publishing!) and decided we’d probably better get to the city early enough to get a good night’s sleep.
We drove the turnpike feeling slightly adrift. Fortunately, the helpful signage helped us find ourselves again.
In time we came to the most majestic of all possible tunnels.
If you’ve never driven through the Holland Tunnel, then you’ve never driven through the Holland Tunnel.
We slept. Long and hard. We woke. We had breakfast in blissful, stylish, child-free silence.
We watched as our friend David’s cat battled invisible demons.
Robbi declared my ear hair situation unfit for viewing by the titans of publishing. It hurt a little, but these are the sacrifices one must be willing to make.
Feeling dashing and rested and sufficiently plucked, we headed out into the big world.
As we traveled north on foot, we learned important lessons about life.
Our destination was the Flatiron Building. Google was our guide.
Because she is an equal-opportunity groomer, Robbi stopped at CVS to buy some band-aids. So that her heels would not be gushing blood when we walked into our 11:00 meeting. The titans have standards about ruptured blisters, too, apparently. So much I did not know. Robbi is full of timeless wisdom.
New York boasts the sorts of buildings we don’t have in Chestertown. We craned our necks in admiration.
Our collective pulses quickened as we approached the fabled Flatiron, most elegant of all New York City architecture.
We were fifteen minutes early. We debated. I wanted to check in with the doorman 10 minutes early. Robbi preferred five. We compromised at 7. In the mean time, Robbi fed a squirrel, which is likely forbidden, but she was feeling bold.
We left the squirrel still hungry and headed across the street. We spent a moment admiring…
In the course of which we burned through the two compromise minutes and arrived at the doorman exactly five minutes early. I’m pretty sure it was part of Robbi’s plan all along.
We took the elevator to the eighth floor.
We joined a sub-group of titans responsible for trade marketing, publicity, advertising and promotion, and digital marketing. They provided an exciting array of NYC-quality donuts.
Our deep-fried enthusiasm threatened to derail all rational proceedings, but somehow we refocused on the matter at hand, which was selling Babies Ruin Everything. Even though the book doesn’t officially hit the bookstands for another nine months, they are already busy at work
Thank you to Kathryn, Molly, Emily, and Caitlin for coming up with an incredible, comprehensive, creative, robust, excellent plan to sell the pants off of our book. We can’t wait to see you wield your mighty titan powers on our behalf.
After donuts and marketing, we headed downstairs to the Imprint suite, home of our fearless publisher Erin Stein, editor of Babies Ruin Everything, and titan extraordinaire.
We were there for several reasons, not the least of which was to finally meet Natalie Sousa, Imprint’s brand new creative director. We knew from checking out Natalie’s portfolio that she is talented and experienced, but would we like her? Would she have helpful, insightful things to say about our work? Would she like us?
Like nervous 13-year olds we approached her office. And…
…if the Flatiron were a pod, Robbi and Natalie would be its resident peas. How I wish I’d taken photos of them hugging.
So…first hurtle cleared. We like Natalie. We really really like her. But what about her ideas?
We headed into the conference room and got to work. The work at hand was looking at the sketched out storyboard of a brand new children’s picture book we’re doing with Imprint. A very different sort of book than Babies Ruin Everything, this book is about exploring the world and taking a long, careful look at the things around you.
I cannot tell you what it’s called because we don’t yet know, exactly.
And I cannot show you any of the drawings up close because they are still top secret. The book has not yet been officially announced. That will happen in December. But for you, dear reader, here is a glimpse into the inner sanctum of how picture books get made. Various titans assemble with the likes of Robbi and me, and we talk, talk, talk about words and pictures and that delightful space where they collide and interact and make powerful alchemy.
After 90 thrilling minutes talking about the new book, Erin pulled out the latest proofs of Babies Ruin Everything and shared them with us and our dear, smart, amazing agent Meredith Kaffel Simonoff. Erin has continued to improve the files – adjusting colors and identifying the tiny imperfections that result from tiny bits of dust and other gunk that can get on the printing plate. These are called “hickeys,” and they must be summarily removed.
The final proofs are gorgeous. The hickeys are gone. The book is now being printed. And it’s not our responsibility.
Erin had warned us that she had a surprise in store for us, and it was a good one. Ours is the very first book cover to grace the wall of the 8th story conference room. Here’s the view out the window.
And here’s the view of the wall.
After building up a powerful appetite with all that book talk, we headed to lunch at a Japanese restaurant. It was delicious. Inexplicably, I did not take photos of my food.
After lunch, we walked with Meredith to the offices of DeFiore and Company where we talked a little more shop. (There are still more book projects swirling in the ether).
We felt honored to have an out-facing presence on her bookshelf in the company of all the other incredible writers and illustrators she represents.
We bid Meredith farewell and headed underground. Our next destination was uptown.
Upon arriving at 51st and Lexington Avenue, we came back above ground…
…though we were still deep in the canyonlands.
We walked a few blocks to the offices of Family Circle magazine.
Where we met Suzanne Rust, the person who wrote the family profile that appeared in last July’s issue.
And spent some time with old pal Lisa Kelsey, Family Circle’s design director.
We talked books. We talked photography. We talked art. It was so nice.
The day was getting late, and so we headed back underground.
When we emerged, the light was starting to get late-day beautiful.
It was 5:00. We braced for the worst, but blazed through the aforementioned Holland Tunnel with little resistance.
We bid farewell to New York. It was gorgeous as the light fell.
We stopped along the Turnpike for the kind of top-end cuisine that can only be found at this little mom and pop joint called Sbarro.
Back down in Delaware, an accidental camera setting let me see my favorite bridge in whole new way.
It was the fitting end to a remarkable day. We were tired but incredibly excited about what lies ahead.
As it turns out, the titans of book and magazine publishing are actually pretty nice and approachable.
At least the ones we we’ve been lucky enough to know.
On the ground, the weather balloon starts out around 6 feet wide (a tallish man size). That’s a big balloon! But wait! It gets EVEN BIGGER. By the time it gets all the way up into the sky, the air around it has gotten so thin that the balloon grows – and grows – AND GROWS! It can stretch to be around 25 feet wide (a tallish elephant).
And then it pretty much has gotten too big and pops. And the radiosonde, attached to a small parachute, falls back down to the ground where people like me find it.
And mail it back, to see if it can be reused again.
Given how rusty and generally beat up our radiosonde was, I don’t have high hopes. But imagining it in its glory days, floating high above the planet attached to its 25-foot-wide balloon, makes me happy anyway.
Hello all! Now that we’ve taken care of publishing excitement, let’s get back to the Theme of the Month: Weather Balloons!
Do you want to know something crazy? REALLY CRAZY?! I mean, CRAAAAAAAAAZZZZZY?!!!!
Alright. Prepare yourselves:
In order for scientists to collect the information they need to give us our daily weather reports, twice a day, every day, at exactly the same time, they send up weather balloons in over 900 different places across the whole earth!
That’s 1,800 weather balloons a day!!
That’s 657,000 weather balloons a year!!
That’s a lotta balloons. I’m kind of wondering why I’ve only ever found ONE.
I’m going to be spending this afternoon painting some weather balloons. I wonder where they will be… over the ocean? Over a city? Or maybe over the tundra, which is where we live in Alaska where we found our balloon. Maybe you can spend your afternoon painting a weather balloon. Where will yours go?
So, the mystery has been solved! That piece of “trash” we found up in Alaska was a weather balloon!
Thank you Kirstin, for your extensive research involving (gasp!) PDFs. We’re not actually sure whether it was used for “turbulence soundings” but details, details! Email me directly to collect your free book!
And, while we’re at it, I’d say Conrad’s very educated guess of a “submarine on the bottom and a cruise ship in the top” is actually not too far off, if you think of the stratosphere as the ocean. So email me, Conrad, and I’ll send you a free book too!
Thank you both for your excellent sleuthing/guessing!
It turns out that the MYSTERIOUS styrofoam box and the MYSTERIOUS wires were part of the “RADIOSONDE,” which still sounds mysterious but which is actually a small kind of computer that measures different things as the weather balloon travels up into the sky. It sends this information back to earth with a radio signal, and then scientists use the information to figure out what the weather is going to be like.
The “secret message” is just a return bag with directions to put the radiosonde in:
and some information to fill out so that the scientists know where the weather balloon was found:
It sounds like the scientists hope the radiosonde is in good enough condition that they can reuse it. I’m not so sure. This one looked PRETTY rusty.
But we packed it up anyway and mailed it last week – and included a note asking for any more details. We promise to share them when we get them!
And hey – let us know if you know any interesting facts about weather balloons or have done any balloon launches yourselves! Maybe you’ve even found a weather balloon? Email me HERE or post on the Bobbledy Books Facebook page! And stay tuned for more interesting stuff about weather balloons!