Tag Archives: James Foley

Brobot by James Foley

 

I absolutely love the Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey.  For a while now I’ve been looking for something else to suggest to kids that is similar to the Bad Guys, both in the way that the story is told and the humour.  I’ve found the perfect book in James Foley’s new junior graphic novel, Brobot.

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Sally Tinker makes machines … and Joe Tinker breaks them. As the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve, Sally knows she can build a better brother than Joe. But is her invention – Brobot – really all that a brother should be?

Brobot is a hilarious junior graphic novel about a girl and her search for the perfect brother.  There is something in this book for everyone – annoying brothers who destroy everything, inventions, robots, toxic nappies, destruction and a whole lot of laughs. I’m sure a lot of kids will relate to Sally and her problems with her annoying little brother.

I loved James Foley’s previous book, My Dead Bunny (with Sigi Cohen) and I’ve been following the development of Brobot for a while, so it’s great to finally read it.  The story is really funny by itself but the comic illustrations add to the laughs.  Sally’s human brother Joe doesn’t even say anything and he still makes you laugh.  The facial expressions of Sally and Joe are enough to make you crack up sometimes.  I especially love Sally’s name, which she shortens to S. Tinker Inc.

Although it’s a graphic novel it’s a chapter book format so I’ll be shelving it with my younger fiction, just like the Bad Guys series.

Brobot is perfect for anyone who likes Aaron Blabey, Kyle Mewburn or just a really funny read.

Check out this great book trailer for Brobot too:

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – James Foley

 

Bringing My Dead Bunny to life – James Foley

www.jamesfoley.com.au/books/my-dead-bunny

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I have never owned a rabbit, let alone a zombified one, so when I began working on ‘My Dead Bunny’ I had no idea how to approach the character of Bunny Brad. I knew plenty about zombies, having watched all of the Walking Dead and the original Romero film Night of The Living Dead; but I didn’t know how to draw a decent rabbit (or, as this book required, an indecent one).

In addition, I wasn’t sure what illustration style would suit the book; in the first few pages I needed to show a live rabbit being electrocuted, then coming back as a zombie, and I needed to accomplish this without making the audience want to stop reading, close the book, and burn it immediately. As you would expect, it was a challenge bringing a dead bunny to life.

I always start a book by developing the main character. This inevitably involves experimenting with style at the same time. Once the main character design has settled, it informs the style of the whole book; everything else forms around it.

I read the first draft for ‘My Dead Bunny’ and was instantly hooked. Then I was perplexed. How would I draw Bunny Brad? I realised I needed to answer three questions:

  1. How ‘undead’ would he be? (i.e. would Bunny Brad still look relatively alive, or would he look obviously undead?)
  2. How much sentience would he have? (i.e. would Bunny Brad appear to be conscious of his actions and intentionally evil, or would he be acting out of unconscious zombie impulses?)
  3. How real would he look? (i.e. would Bunny Brad have realistic proportions, or would he appear more cartoony?)

I wrote these three questions down in my sketchbook, and tried a few drawings.

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The brain worm was there from the start, as was the idea to have Bunny Brad appear at the narrator’s bedroom door casting a long shadow.  But that’s about all in these sketches that looks familiar.

At this point I realised I needed to look at reference photos of actual rabbits, so that I could clarify what features I needed to include. I soon found another challenge; how could I take a rabbit’s features and zombify them? Rabbits look very alert, anxious and cuddly, whereas zombies need to look slow, dim-witted and creepy. How could I draw a zombified rabbit and still have it seem like a rabbit?

I tried many many options over many many months. Here are some of those designs.

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The publishers (god bless them) were very patient and supportive, rejecting options that were too cute and/or not strong enough. After many rejected character designs I was feeling very frustrated, so I sat on my studio floor with a big sheet of paper and a sharpie, and drew some ridiculous zombie rabbits that I thought the publisher would hate. ‘Let’s see what they think of these!’ I thought. I sent the sketches off with a devilish glint in my eye.

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The publisher emailed me back almost immediately. ‘We love them!’ they said. ‘More of these, please!’

I felt surprised, then relieved. The character had finally clicked, and so had the style. Bunny Brad shifted a bit from that sketch to the final version, but he was basically there, and the rest of the book flowed quite easily once he was in place.

LEFT: a colour test version of the rough sketch in the previous image;  RIGHT: final version from the cover of the book

LEFT: a colour test version of the rough sketch in the previous image;
RIGHT: final version from the cover of the book

It’s always the case that I spend at least half of the creative process experimenting and planning. Quite often there’s a point where it seems like it’s never going to work – that the character is never going to settle and the book won’t go anywhere. I’m so glad Bunny Brad eventually turned up! He’s been a heap of fun to work with (if a bit nibbly).

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James Foley is available now from Walker Books Australia.  Grab a copy now from your library or bookshop.

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Filed under books, Guest Post, picture books, Seriously Spooky Month, Seriously Spooky Month 2015, spooky

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James Foley

So you like picture books about cute bunny rabbits who nibble on carrots or deliver chocolate eggs in a basket?  Well this is definitely not the picture book for you.  However, if you like picture books about gross, stinky, horrible creatures then this book is absolutely perfect for you.  Meet Brad the zombie bunny in Sigi Cohen and James Foley’s new picture book, My Dead Bunny.

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We first meet Brad when he is visiting his owner in bed one night and we’re told of how Brad came to be dead.  Brad was just a normal, cute, fluffy bunny until the day he decided to chew through the TV cord and got electrocuted. The family bury him but the boy misses him and decides to dig him up and check on him.  This is when Brad starts to cause a panic, scaring everyone silly, stinking up the house and making a mess.  The situation gets so bad that the boy and his friends have to come up with a plan to deal with dead Bunny Brad.  Will their plan just cause more problems instead?

I absolutely love this picture book!  It is creepy, disgusting and absolutely hilarious.  It’s completely the opposite of those cutesy picture books about bunny rabbits and it will appeal hugely to boys.  You would have to make sure you knew your audience when reading it aloud, as you wouldn’t want to traumatise a kid whose beloved pet had just died.

Sigi Cohen and James Foley are a dream team for this book. Sigi Cohen’s rollicking rhyming text will have you laughing out loud as you read it.  I love his descriptions of zombie Bunny Brad, which are creepy and funny at the same time.  James Foley’s illustrations are delightfully creepy but hilarious.  James has used a very simple colour palette, mostly black and grey, with green and orange to add effect.  The green of zombie Brad really makes him stand out, compared to his living self which is grey.  James really makes zombie Brad look creepy and disgusting, with his pink, runny eyes, his horrible teeth, and the worm sticking out of his head.  James also uses different angles and shadows to add to the creepiness of the illustrations.  I even love James’ end papers of the book, which show Brad before and after his accident.

My Dead Bunny is a perfect picture book for older readers and younger readers who like a bit of a scare and a good laugh.

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My Dead Bunny Book Trailer

My Dead Bunny is the gory, glorious new picture book, written by Sigi Cohen and illustrated by James Foley, coming from Walker Books Australia in October.  The illustrator, James Foley, will be featured on My Best Friends Are Books in October as part of my Seriously Spooky Month.  Keep your eyes peeled for James and Bradley the zombie bunny.

I love this book and the trailer is fantastic! Watch it now:

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Picture Book Nook: In the Lion by James Foley

‘In the city there’s a zoo.  In the zoo there’s a lion.  And in the lion there’s…’  Richard and his family are visiting the zoo one day when they witness the lion swallowing the zoo dentist whole!  This is only the first of many things that end up ‘in the lion.’  Will anybody be able to stop the lion?

In the Lion is a hilarious picture book about a very hungry lion and the havoc that he causes.  The story gets sillier and sillier at more and more things end up in the lion.  Children will be laughing out loud because they’ll figure out very quickly what is going to happen next.  Just when you think you know what is going to happen on the next page, James Foley surprises us and brings in the hero of the story.  I love James’ illustrations because there are lots of extra details that you might not notice the first time (look at the shadows and reflections on each page). The expressions of the characters in the story (both people and animals) are hilarious, especially at the end of the book.  Every page in the book is illustrated and full of colour, including the very cool end papers.  If there was an award for the best picture book cover it would have to go to In the Lion because it’s absolutely fantastic and will really appeal to children.

The story works well as a read-aloud, but is even better for one-on-one sharing so that you can make the most of the illustrations.  James Foley is a very talented author and illustrator and I’ll look forward to reading more of his picture books.

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Filed under books, children, Illustrators, Picture Book Nook, picture books