Bob’s children’s book career started in 1981 with a story entitled “Ghost in Dobbs Diner” which was published by Parents Magazine Press. It was a color hardback, and Bob delights in taking it with him for school talks. Bob is of course closely associated with the Paddington books and is working on a 50th anniversary edition (he also did the 40th). Michael Bond, the author, is very happy doing a repeat. Things have changed–Bob uses new techniques and has different knowledge about the illustration process and he wanted to try focusing more on the character of Paddington. The goal is to have the book ready by Christmas 2007.

   His medium is pen and ink with watercolor and colored pencils, gouache and acrylics–Bob likes to experiment with different styles and materials. Bob creates small sketches and enlarges them, and makes modifications. One of his approaches to getting a tight composition is to work to size or smaller. He knows that when the illustrations are reduced they can loose energy and become a bit muddy. Unlike some artists, Bob said that he is able to work on multiple projects and sometimes a project needs to be set aside to meet a special deadline. He loves his work and knows what he wants his illustrations to look like, and because of that, he says that the days just fly by. Bob really works hard to create pictures that he thinks will take the story just a little further and to give kids even more of an experience. He has confidence that what he presents has value and is worth presenting to his intended audience–young readers.

Selected Reviews of Bob’s Books

Being Teddy Roosevelt
Claudia Mills
Illustrated by R.W. Alley
   This short chapter book is an engaging episode in the life of fourth grader Riley. His problems–losing his papers, forgetting his Language Arts notebook, not being able to afford a saxophone, and having a hard time getting anything higher than a C grade–hang heavy on his mind. The author deals sensitively with his problems big and small. Many a fourth grader will identify with Riley’s feelings and admire his attempts, eventually successful, to devise strategies for coping with each problem. A school assignment about Teddy Roosevelt gets Riley thinking about how the intrepid president would have handled similar obstacles. He comes to realize that celebrities face just as much adversity as ordinary people. Roosevelt was asthmatic and his father, like Riley’s, died young. The biography inspires the boy to focus on perseverance and solutions rather problems. The author populates her classroom with ordinary children, including the stock teacher’s pets and show-offs, but they are not one-dimensional or static. Amusing illustrations by R. W. Alley endear these children to the reader and put their problems in perspective. The characters and situations are timeless, reminiscent of Cleary’s Ramona books in their focus on the dilemmas and perspective of the young elementary school child. There is also enough humor to make this a good bet for reluctant readers. 2007, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 7 to 10, $16.00. Reviewer: Christina M. Desai (Childrens Literature).

Pearl and Wagner: Three Secrets
Kate McMullan
Illustrated by R.W. Alley
    Three short stories featuring Pearl and her pal Wagner comprise this early reader. When Pearl sees a friend whispering to Wagner, it practically ruins the class trip to the ice cream factor. Pearl wants to know the secret and Wagner tries to keep his word to keep the secret. They miss most of what is going on during the tour and even miss out on the double-dip ice cream cones at the end of the trip. The second and third stories are also related to secrets–Wagner’s fear of heights and loud noises associated with the roller coaster and Pearl’s fear of riding the roller coaster once she is actually looking at it. What makes these stories so enjoyable is that the friends really do help each other overcome their personal fears. The stories also use language in a playful way, thus making something simple and ordinary quite interesting. Caring, humor and stories about real situations will resonate with kids, especially those who face the same dilemmas. The illustrations by Alley are equally delightful. Definitely a cut above most books of this genre. A Dial “Easy-To-Read” Level 2 book which features short sentences and simple dialogue. 2004, Dial/Penguin, $14.99. Ages 5 to 7. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

A Revolutionary Field Trip: Poems of Colonial America
R.W. Alley
    Mrs. Brown, the wonderful teacher who takes her class on field trips, is back. This time they are going to a colonial village. They learn how to make candles, what toys children played with, and how to spin thread from wool. They attempt to sign their names with quill pens and line up and march like soldiers. They visit with several Native Americans and learn about the corn planting ceremony, Dream Catchers, and how to make rope from a stick. Katz’s poems have a strong rhythm as well as being informational with touches of humor. Mrs. Brown’s students have unique personalities. Alley’s illustrations are well-placed on the page. Primary grade children will enjoy the humorous touches while they learn about life in the colonies. The endpapers are maps of the 13 original colonies and the Eastern Native Tribes and Nations of North America. This is a fun way to introduce children to American history. 2004, Simon & Schuster, $16.95. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

   Since Bob works in formats ranging from board books to chapter books, most of his school visits usually range from kindergartens through fifth or sixth grades. Sometimes the older students are in the process of making their own books and he will discuss how they might approach that assignment. For the younger grades, he concentrates on drawing and talking about characters from the stories he has illustrated. Bob is also happy to talk to adult and professional groups. In these cases, the topic and form of the presentation will vary with the group’s focus.

School Visit Requirements:

  • Good-sized blackboard, chalk and an eraser or access to a whiteboard (He has markers for whiteboards).With quick sketching and erasing, Bob show’s how characters and settings for stories are developed from the initial written descriptions in the text. For examples, he relies on stories that he has either illustrated or written and illustrated. Sometimes, Bob will test out a story on which he currently working.
  • For any visit, Bob is happy to undertake some big sketches to leave behind. For this he needs an easel and a large pad of paper. Bob always bring drawing materials with him.

   Bob speaks to groups of no more than fifty (50) children at one sitting. 200 maximum in auditorium. His target is to not do more than three (3) classroom presentations in one visit. Of course, there is always room for a little maneuvering if this doesn’t fit your needs.

   Depending on the age group, Bob might add some thoughts on the more technical end of illustrating and publishing. These things he can demonstrate by showing slides which is especially useful in auditorium talks.

Adult and Professional Visits

   Adult and professional visits can be organized depending on the venue of the talk. Bob likes to use slides to demonstrate what he is talking about. This isn’t a requirement, but it is fun. And, please leave time for questions.

   Presentation fees vary depending on the venue, the audience, the time of day and the length and number of presentations. Presentations for K-6 will be tied to curriculum base, upper grades-“how to” talks, and adults-“how to” and/or bio themes. As you may expect, additional compensation to cover the time and expense of out-of-state travel would need to be considered for each individual visit.

Additional Information

To learn more about Bob Alley and his publications please visit www.rwalley.com.