Once a year, we send Bobbledy Club members a book with a few prompts and invite them to bring their full creative powers to the task of writing and illustrating their own books.
This year’s prompt book looked like this:
This time around, we added a twist by including a sheet of Robbi-drawn stickers for kids to use as inspiration for their own stories and drawings.
We sent out both of the above. We waited and waited while kids made their books. Then, suddenly, packages started arriving in the mail, padded envelopes, Priority Mail dispatches, even the carefully wrapped parcel or two.
The fun part was reading them and seeing all the amazing stories and ideas and images that flow so freely from the minds of kids. It’s a tap of eternal inspiration and imagination, and we’re so lucky to get to drink from that firehose.
The hard part was picking just one of the dozens of great books kids sent our way. But we hemmed and hawed and hemmed some more and finally came to the conclusion that the one true winner of this year’s contest was, for the first time, the product of more than one kid. Please join me in congratulating Eleanor, Isabel and Will Bolas on their triumph of sibling collaboration, Peacock and Duck Save Friendship!
I would give you the setup, but the kids do it so well themselves.
From there, things get exciting a hurry. There are various hijinks, threats, and mishap.
There are moments of hilarious pathos.
There is a truly epic “backstory,” which allows us to identify with and cultivate sympathy for the evil robotic overlord antagonist.
There is justice, but also mercy.
And in the final estimation, there is the happy ending that one hopes for in books about friendship.
Here are the author/illustrator triumvirate as drawn in their own inimitable style.
And here they are, drawn by Robbi (Eleanor, Isabel, and Will, left to right).
I have it on great authority that the arrival of the package was met with great joy in the Bolas household. Eleanor was overheard saying “it’s like a dream! I keep thinking I’m going to wake up!” And with good reason. It is not just everyday that one’s first published book arrives in the mail. I had to wait until I was 35 for it to happen.
Over the course of that first exciting evening, the book was read repeatedly by various configurations of Bolases to various other configurations of Bolases.
The next morning, books were taken to school to be shared and gifted to respective classrooms. One of Eleanor’s classmates was so enthusiastic, that he plans to write fan fiction to continue the story with the same characters.
Take a close look. These are the faces of tomorrow’s literary landscape. If you are literally searching for your wallet at this moment in hopes of obtaining your very own copy of Peacock and Duck Save Friendship, I will do you the courtesy of providing the link that will expedite this transaction.
But we must take a moment to acknowledge all of the other incredible kids who shared their amazing work with us. Here is just a little glimpse of each book we received.
I think you’ll soon see why our decision was so very difficult.
As far as we can tell, Peacock and Duck Save Friendship has been enthusiastically received by kids who entered the contest but did not win.
Here, for example, are Aurora and Leila, enjoying their own book while seeing what Eleanor, Isabel, and Will came up with.
And here is Joseph, whose mom reports the following:
Joseph came in, took off his backpack, tore open the red and purple envelope and settled in to read for his twenty minutes of homework. I felt as if the steam from the book, hot of the press, was still rising from the book, it was so freshly read this afternoon.
Joseph said ” I didn’t like the book, I LOVED IT! They wrote a great story! The robot slipped on a banana peel like oooooooo!”
And there you have it. Perhaps the only thing better than seeing the excitement that results from seeing one’s book published is seeing the support and excitement other kids can feel for their fellow young authors — even when they themselves don’t win.
Thanks to EVERY LAST KID who participated in this contest. We hope you enjoyed making a story and bringing it to life with pictures. We sure enjoyed getting the chance to glimpse inside your brains and hearts. Which is, after all, what making books (and sharing them) is all about.
Hello, Bobbledy World.
Over the past few days, we have been inundated with requests from eager young authors and illustrators (and their eager old parents) requesting JUST A BIT of extra time to finish their versions of Once Upon a Time. Because we at Bobbledy are more interested in doing everything we can to help kids write and illustrate their own stories than we are in being sticklers about deadlines, we have decided to extend the deadline by TWO FULL WEEKS so that kids can have the entire Columbus Day weekend to work on their books.
The new postmark deadline is October 15!
Are we playing fast and loose with the rules of the game? Perhaps.
Are we far too generous for our own good? If you say so.
Are we looking forward to reading your books? Absolutely.
Which is to say, get to it!
Once a year, Robbi and I make a book that’s not complete. I write the first few sentences. She provides a handful of illustrations. We send this not-nearly-finished book out to all the kids in the Bobbledy Club, and wonderful things happen.
Kids write and illustrate books and then send them back to us. After laughing and smiling and sighing contentedly through dozens of submissions, we pick just one winner to professionally publish and send out to the Bobbledy readership. It’s our favorite time of year. So many amazing kid brains kicking into creative overdrive. So much possibility.
This year, we’re mixing it up a bit—and taking it up a notch. Or maybe even two.
First of all, the book itself. Instead of printing it ourselves, we sent it off to be professionally printed this year. Hence the glossy cover. And, instead of putting illustration prompts on all the pages, this year Robbi created a sheet of stickers so that kids can put her illustrations wherever they want to.
The idea is that kids can peel and stick these shiny happy stickers wherever the heck they want to. Ideally, on the pages of the book, but who are we to limit young imaginations? There are also speech bubble stickers, so the peacocks of those Bobbledy Club members who are not old enough to write can say “Whoops!” to their hearts’ content.
Needless to say, the shiny books and shiny stickers got Robbi and me pretty excited, and we’re not even eligible to ender the contest.
Early last week we slid the books into envelopes, wondering what amazing words and pictures kids would use to fill their pages.
This might look to you like a stack of envelopes. But it is actually a great big pile of possibility.
We have it on good authority that kids are already diving in. Here is Sydney, busy at work on her masterpiece.
And here is Bailey, admiring this sticker of a sheriff’s star before placing it into her book.
We’ve been hearing other reports from the Bobbledy frontier: two sisters and a brother embarked in unprecedented triangular collaboration and created a fantastic story. A little girl and her grandfather split writing and illustration duties to create the tale of a lonely turtle. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of copies of Once Upon a Time are out there in the world, being lovingly completed at this very moment.
It’s almost more than I can stand, knowing that I have to wait to read them all.
If you know a kid or sticker-enthusiast adult who would enjoy making a book with us, here you go.
We have told you already, I think, about the great excitement that has erupted in Scotland over Maia Blackie’s winning this year’s Bobbledy Books “make your own book” contest.
We have just received from Maia’s grandmother the latest in her string of media mentions, this time a front-page story on the cover of her local paper, the Kilmarnock Standard.
Here’s a link to the article itself. It’s lovely and sweet, if somewhat hyperbolic and lacking in strict adherence to the facts.
The article begins as such.
A Stewarton girl has made history by becoming the youngest ever Scottish writer to have been published.
At just six-years old, Maia Blackie etched her name into Scottish literary history alongside writers like Robert Louis Stevenson, Val McDermid, and even Rabbie Burns.
And to seize the opportunity, the Lainshaw Primary pupil beat thousands of children from America.
We will leave it to others (and to the years ahead) to ascertain whether Maia will join the Mount Rushmore of Scottish literary greats, but we can (and must) admit that she did not beat out thousands of Americans to win the contest. Though dozens, certainly.
Playing a role in bringing Maia’s wonderful book into the world is truly one of Robbi’s and my proudest accomplishments of our 12 years of making books together.
And heir apparent to Robert Burns or no, Maia should be very proud of her excellent work. If you are so inspired, you can order Rosie and the Bees here.
And if, some day, you happen upon a book by a younger Scottish author, we will gladly refund your money (provided that child actually has bested thousands of American authors along the way).
It is old news to many of you that this year’s Bobbledy Books “make your own” book winner has been announced. This happened nearly two months ago, in fact, but for reasons that will soon be clear, we have been unable to tell you about her until now.
Meet Maia Blackie, the youngest published author in the history of Scotland, pictured here with her very own book, Rosie and the Bees.
Maia is this year’s winner.
Because mail travels slowly to Scotland, and especially big boxes full of many extra copies for all of Maia’s family and friends, we had to wait to tell you that Maia had won the contest until Maia herself discovered that she had won the contest. But books eventually arrived, triggering great excitement in Glasgow and leading to the taking of the photo above.
Such furor resulted from the news of Maia’s win that it captured the notice of The Herald, a Scottish newspaper. You can follow this link if you’d like to read the whole story. It’s really quite wonderful.
If you take nothing else away from the article, I want you to know that Rosie and the Bees is a “really lovely, simple wee tale, full of humor and fun.”
Keep in mind that the unfinished book we sent out for club members to complete with their own stories and drawings was called The __________ Adventures of the ____________ Piggy Bank. We made it clear that club members were allowed to change the name if they liked.
Maia certainly took us up on the offer.
Given that we love the cover, we urge you to judge this book by it.
Robbi had a lot of fun adding speech bubbles and colored backgrounds to make Maia’s wonderful drawings and layouts really come alive.
We love how well Maia worked with the illustration prompts that Robbi left for kids to build their stories and drawings around. For example, in the unfinished book we sent out, the page below was blank except for the illustration of a band-aid.
Maia’s decision to put it on Rosie’s nose was just right.
In the course of working with Maia’s book, we learned a thing or two about Scottish culture and language. For example, did you know that “knickers” is the Scottish way of saying “underwear?” We did not. But now we do. (Please take note of the pink knickers with red hearts; I am going get myself a pair.)
Although Rosie and the Bees is an overwhelmingly heartwarming tale, there is one moment of dramatic tension when Maia’s friend Lilly wields a saw and threatens (with a wicked gleam in her eye) to cut down a tree.
Lilly is well-intentioned, of course. Her aim is dispersing the menacing swarm of bees that has already resulted in Rosie’s being stung on the nose.
But Maia (Maia the character in Rosie and the Bees, not Maia the author; this is all very meta, of course) stops her friend, saves the tree, and finds another solution. As any heroic figure should. Maia the character is one heck of a character.
And Maia the kid is one heck of a kid. Here is her self-portrait (with the aforementioned Rosie).
Already an accomplished writer and artist at the tender age of six, Maia is also a great fan of all animals, from her good pal Rosie to the lowly cockroach.
I want to give a shout-out to all the other kids who sent us books this year. There were so many great stories and so many amazing drawings that it was REALLY, REALLY hard to pick just one to publish. We wish we had a trunk of gold and an army of designers so that we could publish each and every one of them. But for now, we had the fun of picking one illustration from each book to publish in the back of Rosie and the Bees.
Look at all this wonderful stuff.
Aren’t kids amazing?
We are already looking forward to next year’s contest. We have decided to throw a twist into the mix the next time around. Stay tuned, Bobbledy club members everywhere. And for all of the rest of you, please join me in a round of applause for Maia, the youngest published author in the history of Scotland.
We couldn’t be more proud of her, and we couldn’t be any happier to have her in our club.
For all you folks who are local or local-ish to Baltimore, let it be known that we are doing a bookmaking workshop for kids at the North Point Library this weekend! We’ll be at the library (1716 Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk) on Saturday from 2-4pm. We’ll do a reading of some of our books, and then we’ll get out our crayons and markers and show you how to make your own mix-and-match recombinable book.
Here’s a little preview of the action – my little animated version of the book you’ll be making, Jim, Joe, Larry and SuperBob.
I could only fit Jim, Joe and SuperBob into this animation, but you’ll get to make your own story and characters at the workshop.
If you’re interested in making your own version of the book at the library, call 410-887-7255 for more information and to register.
There’s only room for 20 people, but (shhh, don’t tell!) so far there’s ZERO people signed up for this week’s workshop. So, we’ll be delighted if ANYONE shows up.
We have been told in the past that it’s a fun workshop. Here’s some photographic proof from the last one we did:
Don’t they look like they’re having fun?
And sure, Matthew may be humorless and demanding:
But he sure got those kids to make some great books:
I know I can rely on his hard-as-nails approach to get good work out of the 8-and-under set (and the occasional smile as well, believe it or not):
Fear not, kids! I use the softer, gentler approach:
With equally spectacular results:
So – if you’ve got nothing better to do this weekend, sign on up and see how to make your OWN mix-and-match book!
Also: if you are a teacher, librarian, PTA member or parent who would like us to come give a reading or workshop, DROP US A LINE and hopefully we can work something out!
See you Saturday!