Behind The Scenes
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Have you ever wanted to SEE how a children's picture book is created? Most kids simply read the book when it's published, but there are many things have to be done before that happens.

Take a behind the scenes tour of the creation of Hello Robots by Bob Staake -- and learn about how this fun book came to be!


1: The Write Stuff

children's picture book is almost always the careful blending of writing and art, neither working as well alone as when they work together. Hello Robots is no different, but the book began as a story first, the pictures coming later.

"I really just wanted to write a fun story for kids that centered around robots", said Bob Staake, author of Hello Robots. "Part of being an illustrator is making sure that your kid-sensibilities stay with you, so I began thinking that it would be really cool if four robots all lived together in the same house -- with no humans around at all. While I hope it's a fun and silly little story, the bigger theme behind Hello Robots is that we each have our own individual talents, but we all need to work together to solve problems, help out one another, and ultimately succeed. That's the way it should be with kids and adults, and the robots prove that it's the same for them!"

"When the robots encounter an unexpected thunderstorm," Bob continues, "their wires get scrabbled and crossed, they literally have to put their heads together to fix the problems that result."

"I wrote Hello Robots on my Apple iBook", says Bob, "and it was the sort of story that just naturally flowed. I chose to write the book as a rhyme for a number of reasons. First, rhyming texts were always the books I loved most in my childhood and, secondly, I have always been intrigued over how a rhyming story forces the author to think differently -- and twist a plot in unusual ways."

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2: Cover For Me!

"When I'm writing a children's book story", says Bob, "I'm always giving thought at the same time to how the characters will look. After all, these are picture books -- so you can't really write the story without having a good idea of how the artwork will play with it. While I was writing Hello Robots, I created a comprehensive illustration of the cover that depicted all four of the robots -- Blink and Zinc, Blip and Zip. Luckily, my publisher (Viking Children's Books) loved the story and cover. I now had to sketch out the story as a 32 page picture book."

The original, comprehensive digital color sketch (above) for the cover of 'Hello Robots'. While this colorful illustration helped the book find a home at Viking, you can see how it differs from the final cover (right)
In the final book cover for Hello Robots, (above) the robots have been changed somewhat, the background colors are softened, the typeface has been modified. Even the chocolate tart's candles have been replaced by cherries!


3: Things Get Sketchy

"I love to draw", says Bob, "and the process of sketching out a picture book is always more fun than you can possibly imagine. It's the only way to make sure that the story flows, that the drama builds, and that the pictures better clarify the story. Once I finish the sketches, I print the story and paste it on top of the artwork. I have then created what we call in publishing a 'dummy', and the completely sketched book (or dummy) is shown to my editor for review.

Once Bob finished writing the story for Hello Robots, he began sketching out the 32 page picture book using a simple pencil on 11"x17" bond paper (above). It is at this point that the art and writing begin to work together. Because Bob's book illustrations will ultimately be created on an Apple computer, his pencil sketches are only intended to show the general "spirit" of a scene, but many details and special effects are added when the final art is digitized.

When Bob and his editors at Viking looked at the split-view scene sketch showing two robots inside their house and two outisde, they all felt that it would be better to show the robots performing their tasks in funnier ways. In his final, color illustration of the scene (shown above and created on a Apple G4 computer using a program called Adobe Photoshop 3.0), Bob follows the original sketch - but shows vegetables popping out of Blink, a power drill extending out of Zinc's head, a silly hose system in Blip, and Zip using his trap door-body to collect leaves!


4: Building Your Image (With A Computer)

"Now that my editors, art directors and I have discussed the sketches and made changes here and there", says Bob, "it's time for me to sit down and create the final, color artwork for the book. From the point that a publisher agrees to publish a book and when it is to be completed typically spans one year, but with Hello Robots, Viking asked if there was anyway the book could be a Fall release instead of Spring. I don't know any author/illustrator who wouldn't want to have a Fall release date for their book, but this meant that I would have to create all the color artwork very fast -- within four weeks. I assured them that I would have the book ready, so I left New York for my home in Chatham, Massachusetts to finish the book during a very, very, very cold January 2004."

"When I create the art for a children's book, I always remember back to my own childhood in Los Angeles in the 1960s. I was simply enthralled with children's books -- especially those by Dr. Seuss, Tibor Gergeley, Aurelius Battaglia, Wanda Gag, J.P.Miller, Richard Scarry and Edward Gorey, and while all those illustrators would use paint, brush and pen to create their art, I use a computer."

"My sketches are always done in pencil, but they must then be created digitally on my Apple computer with a program called Adobe Photoshop 3. Instead of a typical drawing tool, I use a computer mouse to pull, stretch and click the pictures. I tend to work very fast, and it may take me 6 to 8 hours to create any of the two page illustrations (or spreads) you find in Hello Robots."

Bob follows the written text of his Hello Robots story to create the sketch (above) for pages 16 and 17 of Hello Robots showing Blink, Zinc, Blip and Zip all working outside...

... and on the computer, first builds the "environment" (above) that includes trees, sky, a ladder, the Hello Robot's house. etc (Bob created the pattern on the tree by painting india ink swirls on drawing paper and then digitally scanning them)

Once the environment has been "built", Bob creates illustrations of the robots and adds them into the scene (above). When the final artwork is given to Viking, the words of the story will be 'typeset' and added into open spaces on the pages. Notice how the approaching rain cloud in the upper left, the grass in the lower left and even the shadowing on the water tower have been changed?


5: Gotta Be Real

"Hello Robots", says Bob, "was also my first book in which I incorporated actual photos of elements instead of drawing them. I was so pleased with how this worked out that I plan to use more photos and patterns in my next children's books."

Even photographs of real things (above) like wood paneling, a Henry Dreyfuss-designed Big Ben alarm clock, machinery gears and vintage Fiestaware pottery were used in Hello Robots. When combined with Bob's digital illustrations and rhyming text, they helped to create a robot world that was based on fantasy, but grounded in reality.


6: Details Matter

"There are just so many little things that go into a children's picture book", says Bob, "and Hello Robots was no different. My editors, art directors and production people all work with me to decide how everything will look -- from the typeface that the story will be set in to the end papers -- from the appearance of the book's spine, to the text on the cover flap that describe the book.

The end papers within Hello Robots bind the pages of the book to the hardcover itself. The geometric pattern is reminiscent of wallpaper or giftwrap, and each diamond shape is colored to match each robot.


7: Voila!

"And then", says Bob, "if evvvvverything goes as planned, in the end you get a children's picture book, one that hopefully teaches, inspires or just gives a child a smile or two. I was so lucky to work with so many wonderful people at Viking, the folks who published Hello Robots. Regina Hayes (my publisher) was the one who agreed to publish Hello Robots in the first place, Joy Peskin (my editor) supported me throughout the entire process of completing the book, Denise Cronin (my art director) gave me the freedom to make the artwork in the book big, bright and colorful and Jim Hoover (my assistant art director) really helped pull all the art and type together."

"If you liked Hello Robots, these fine people share in the credit as well!"

You can purchase Hello Robots at your favorite bookstore (ISBN: 0-670-05905-6) or simply order it online by clicking here.

The robots (and Bob) thank you!



Inspire kids about literature, art and self-expression through the Hello Robots public display/installation

+ Learn more about author/illustrator Bob Staake

+ Learn more about Bob Staake book signings

+ Hey, Librarians, Curators + Arts Organizations!

A visual, travelling installation on the creation of Hello Robots is available for your institution or group.

This unique, public display/installation includes original sketches, step-by-step computer-generated illustrations, and behind-the-scenes explanatory text describing the literary, artistic and editorial process of creating a children's picture book.

It's an uncommon look into one picture book that's sure to inspire children, and engage adults as well.

To schedule this public display, please contact us via email.


Related Pages:

+ Order other Bob Staake books. click here

+ Learn more about Bob Staake. click here

+ Book Reviewers amd Media Sources. click here

+ Download a hi-res illustration sample for reprint/web. click here

+ Link to with these web-ready buttons. click here

+ Learn more about Bob Staake book signings. click here

+ Request info on subsidiary rights and licensing for Hello Robots. click here

+ Schedule a talk/presentation by the author/illustrator. click here

Untitled Document

Hello, Robots
by Bob Staake
Published Fall 2004 by Viking Children's Books
32 Pages 10"x10"
Full Color
ISBN 0670059056
BUY it Now
"A high-energy picture book goes a long way on a little plot, thanks to a clean graphic style, a staccato rhyming text, and a surefire kid-pleaser of a subject. Young robot fans will thrill to this simple tale, and the strong rhythm of the text makes it an ideal candidate for storytimes".
- School Library Journal
"Fascinating computer-enhanced artwork that features crisp geometric shapes and Technicolor hues -- thoughtfully designed, right down to the diamond-encrusted endpapers."
- Booklist
"A charming rhyme ... chock-full of funny visual details with a thumping rhythm that make this an excellent read-aloud."
- Kirkus Reviews
"Bob Staake's bold, graphic art style is perfectly suited to the futuristic subjects of his clever, humorous story."
"Bob Staake's modern, crisp illustrations ... practically jump off the page."
- Publisher's Weekly
"Staake's illustrations (are) a stylistic collision of Russian constructivism and pop art that explode with energy playing off of basic geometric shapes and angles and swimming in saturated colors."
- Publishers Weekly
+ Order other books by Bob Staake
Congratulations to Hello Robots -- a 2004 nominee for the Society of Illustrators prestigious 'Original Art Show', celebrating the fine art of children's book illustration!.
PLAY in our Fun + Games area!
The Hello Robots have created some extra-special puzzles, activities and interactive goodies for you! Check them out by clicking here
LEARN how Hello Robots was created as a children's book!
From the writing of the story to the sketching of the pages, from the creation of color artwork to the printing of the pages, the process of creating a picture book is complex. Go behind the scenes of Hello Robots to see how the book came to be! Click here
QUIZ Time!
So, you think you really know the Hello Robots? Then test your robo-knowledge and take our ten question quiz! Click here
ORDER cool Hello Robots stuff!
From t-shirts and mugs, wall clocks to lunch boxes, there's a Hello Robots promotional item that's perfect for you! See all the items now
BUILD your OWN Hello Robot!
If you've got a color printer and a pair of scissors, you'll have a blast creating your OWN 3-D Hello Robots! Start building a Hello Robot now!

Untitled Document is Copyright © 2004 by Bob Staake - All Rights Reserved. Hello Robots is Published by Viking Children's Books of New York, New York. The artwork displayed on this web site is Copyright © 2004 by Bob Staake and may not be used, copied, distributed, downloaded or exploited in any way whatsoever without the expressed, written consent of the copyright holder. To license Hello Robots and and/or imagery, please visit our contact page. In some cases, relies on second party providers for some of our interactive content. may therefore remotely link to these second party sites, but is in no way responsible for the content, advertisements or elements found within these sites. If at any point you find objectionable content on any of these second party sites, please notify us and we will immediately remove all links into that specific secondary site.