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!
For a long time, the kids had no idea what Robbi and I do for a living. They know we’re “working” because we shut the door to the studio and tell them to amuse themselves in the living room. But for all they know “working” means eating pretzels and watching Netflix. Alden learned Robbi was an illustrator from one of the kids at her school. Once Kato found out that I am a writer, he naturally assumed that I was responsible for the words in all the books in the world.
These complicated concepts seem to have finally distilled into a collective understanding that Robbi and I make books together (some small subset of all the books in the world) and that we sell them in an attempt to make money.
Once all these dimensions clicked into one pleasing package, the kids realized that they had a golden opportunity to walk in our footsteps—and to reap the (imagined) riches that might result.
And so they took out their markers and made a banner.
They took out their scissors and folded single sheets of paper to make small books. (As explained in the tutorial in the back of recent Bobbledy title I Looked Out the Window And).
They took out their pens and wrote stories, to which they added drawings.
Instantly recognizing the shortcomings of their parents’ far-too-focused-on-books-alone strategy, they conned their mother into ordering a big bag of lollipops online, that their store might offer sweet treats to complement the reading process.
They dumped the staples from our staple bin and placed their various titles just so.
They convinced their father to lug their art table down to the corner of Queen Street and High. They set up shop. They beamed enthusiastically at the passers by.
And almost instantly, commerce happened.
People stopped to buy finished books and blank books or to have a hands-on tutorial on how to make their own book.
There were ample opportunities for real-time math lessons as they were forced to make change.
The list of available books contained such winning titles as: That’s Not Cool, Sometimes Dogs Eat Macaroni and Cheese, and Kitty Cat the Acrobat.
About twenty minutes after the shop had opened for business, the inventory was depleted. Kato gladhanded customers while Robbi and Alden raced inside to make more books.
It was a rather successful first day. I’m pretty sure the kids made more than Robbi and I did at our first day selling our wares at a book show.
But then again, we didn’t have the benefit of setting up next to Chestertown’s most popular bakery. Nor are we nearly as blessed with those elusive intangibles that help drive sales—youthful enthusiasm, earnest wonder, and…lollipops.
I’ve put together a little rocket activity page based on the auction illustration that I did for the theme of the month. I thought it might be fun to see what the astronaut discovers on the surface of the moon, and to hear what he has to say about it.
(If you’d like a pdf, you can download it HERE).
Print it out, fill it in, and email a picture of it to us or post it on our Bobbledy Books Facebook page for a chance to win a free book! Also, check out or new Activities link for other downloadables!
For months we have not been sharing some very exciting news, because for months we have been existing in a state of sworn secrecy. But now the moment has arrived, and we can finally spill the beans.
Our longtime editor (and, dare I say, friend) Erin Stein, formerly of Little Brown Books for Young Readers, left her old post in December to start a new imprint at Macmillan. For those of you not in the know, an imprint is a sub-division of a publishing house, a curated collection of titles with a particular editorial sensibility. Erin, who has long been a fan of our work, decided to include our book Babies Ruin Everything among the titles in her first “list,” which is the group of titles offered by an individual editor or imprint.
We are extremely pleased. Not only do we love working with Erin (who was editor for our surprising journey into Spider Man’s psyche, The Super Hero Squad Flips Out), but the thought of being a part of something that is just getting started appeals to our entrepreneurial sensibilities.
The reason we are telling you this today is that the something that we are a part of was just officially launched. Erin’s imprint will be called…wait for it…Imprint!
Here’s the story in Publisher’s Weekly (including brief mention of Robbi and me and Babies Ruin Everything).
As for the book in question, Babies Ruin Everything is the trade picture book version of our old Idiots’Books title of the same name.
The original is a satirical piece with sophisticated language and NSFK illustrations and intended for adults. Version 2.0 is still lighthearted and funny, but definitely meant for kids. Specifically, it is targeting the market niche defined by families having second babies (apparently, this is a robust and viable group of book-buying people). The book helps build empathy with kids who are feeling a bit put upon by the arrival of the younger sibling. You might buy it for your kid if your kid is worried about the new baby. Or as a shower gift. Or because you enjoy stories involving ruin.
Here is the unwitting protagonist of Babies Ruin Everything, shown here in the series of sketches we submitted to Erin in the process of developing the character.
And here is the insurgent, upstart baby in question. He who ruins everything. He whose disarming affect and perpetual grin makes him impossible not to root for, to the constant consternation of our heroine.
And here is our protagonist’s trusty, loyal sidekick, Leonard the hamster, always by her side in good times and bad, not a fan of babies, to be sure.
If you ask Erin, Leonard is the actual protagonist of Babies Ruin Everything. Beyond her love of books, Erin has great affinity for all things small and cute and fuzzy.
And who is this this towering, hamster-loving scion of the publishing universe, you might ask?
Here she is (far right), along with our (amazing) agent, Meredith Kaffel (red dress), at the Imprint offices in NYC last week.
There is much more to be said about this book, about Imprint, about our Macmillan adventures to this point, but for now I will leave you with the view from the 8th story conference room of the Flatiron Building, which is Macmillan’s home. It was an inspiring backdrop for a creative brainstorm.
We gathered that day to discuss the making and marketing of Babies, which, contrary to the usual terms of gestation, will not be delivered until about a year from now.
Fortunately, Robbi’s obligations are a little bit different this time around.
Hello all! Father’s Day is coming up soon, and as usual, we are planning a super-great surprise awesome thanks-for-you-you-are-the-best party for Matthew!
Just kidding. We usually completely forget Father’s Day, because, of course, I am supposed to be the one in charge of remembering. But this year I am ON THE BALL. No, really. I have the perfect Father’s Day craft project for you!
Golf Balls for Dad
So, I thought it would be fun to get a box of golf balls and have the kids decorate them. You know, because golf balls are so plain and white and otherwise not particularly interesting (though I once learned in a heated game of Trivial Pursuit that the average golf ball has 336 dimples. And not Shirley Temple, which was my wrong, albeit much more inspired, answer).
We got our box of golf balls (the kids won a coupon at Olympia Sports for running in the Sneaker Creeper) and our sharpies and set to work.
And immediately ran into problem #1:
Holding onto those suckers! Not ten seconds in, we had already lost two balls under the couch and had to hunt for another that bounced across the room.
August tried his hardest not to be distracted by the sound of retreating golf balls.
I guess we must have gotten those fancy long-distance balls.
Anyway. Once we got ourselves back in order and corralled the balls in a box with our pens, we set to work. Alden is a fan of multi-colored flower and heart creations:
while Kato is a virtuoso of the minimalist, flood-your-canvas-with-color-(preferably orange) variety:
August has yet to fully develop his style, which isn’t to say he hasn’t put some really thoughtful, focused and intense effort into his mark-making:
I am particularly fond of Alden’s “Hands Across the Golf Ball” piece:
That kid is so kumbaya, it slays me.
Soon enough, the balls were done (golf balls make a pretty manageable canvas):
While rooting around looking for wrapping paper (turns out snowmen and santa claus is all we’ve got) I discovered the perfect solution: coffee filters! Seeing as Matthew gave up coffee almost a year ago now, we still have a full pack of those suckers around and don’t have much to do with them.
We decorated them first:
And then added the finishing touches after they were all tied up:
We made a couple of very important discoveries that I will share with you:
1. It’s better if you use two coffee filters. Then you can’t see your golf ball through them, and you can decorate each coffee filter differently and it makes the little crepe flower at the top more interesting.
2. Coffee filters make great hats:
and, of course:
3. Hat shenanigans with your brother is hilarious:
And so, when we finally finished, we had some cute and festive little gifts for Father’s Day.
Of course, I neglected to mention the very important 4th item that we discovered – or should I say, remembered? And that is:
4. Matthew doesn’t play golf.
Alas. Matthew isn’t the manly sort who likes to go out and strike balls with clubs with impunity. Nope. Not even a little bit. So, as great as this little craft project is to do, you likely want to do it for someone who actually plays golf. So, we packed up these balls to send to Matthew’s dad, who is very much the manly sort who likes golf.
As for Matthew, I guess this means we’ll have to get to planning that super-great surprise awesome thanks-for-you-you-are-the-best party after all. Unless, of course, I forget about Father’s Day again before we can do it.
**Wait, what were we talking about?**
Well, hello there!
When we were researching volcanos for our theme of the week post on Saturday, I thought we could add a link to a tutorial on how to make your own volcano. I did some very nominal searching but most of the tutorials required that you mix up a bunch of dough and actually make a volcano. Nice idea, but we didn’t really have the time or attention span for it. So – I looked around and decided that we could do a quick and easy version.
Here’s what you need to do:
Get a flowerpot (with a hole in the bottom):
and some plastic wrap:
Add 2 Tablespoons of baking soda to your flowerpot (while covering the hole in the bottom with your finger):
Put the plastic wrap over the flower pot:
Secure it with a rubber band:
SECURE IT, I SAID!!!
Add 8 drops of dish detergent (this will increase the bubbliness of your lava):
Use whatever means necessary to protect yourself from vinegar stink:
Carefully measure out 1 cup of vinegar:
Carefully select food coloring for what color you’d like your lava to be:
Stir in the food coloring (I would tell you a drop count, but Kato was a bit overzealous. Let’s call the measure “a solid squirt or two”):
(it occurs to me now that it probably would have been easier to add the detergent to the vinegar instead of to the flower pot. You may now feel free to learn from my mistakes.)
Anyway – onwards. NEXT! Carefully pour the vinegar into the hole in the bottom of your flowerpot (oh, but only after putting your flower pot onto some sort of plate or dish that will contain the impending lava flow):
Be delighted that your volcano worked! Even though in the photo the lava looks white (it was much redder in real life!):
(By “much redder” than white we mean “pink”):
And we discovered the one gigantic plus-side to our method over the other construct-an-elaborate-mountain-out-of-dough-or-paper-maché methods: you can make your volcano really shoot out the lava by tapping the plastic wrap on the bottom like a drum. Sure, it’s not as realistic as a paper maché volcano, but WHEEEEEEEEEEE!:
Of course, there is a down-side to our method as well. If you happen to have any cuts or scrapes or hangnails or bugbites on your hands, you probably shouldn’t try out the drumming method. Getting vinegar in under your skin stings like crazy. Just ask Kato:
And then, of course, the other downside to shooting vinegar all over the room is that the room then smells like vinegar for the next 4 days.
So that’s it. If you want to make a quick and easy volcano, that’s how to do it. If you don’t have any extra flower pots lying around, you could also use a simple plastic cup with a hole cut in the bottom. Or pretty much anything with a hole in it – even just a bottle or a mug.
So go to it! Have fun! And if you have any great photos (or make any great discoveries) feel free to share them with us in the comments section below!