Beyond Words. A Look at Robert Stanek's Books, Life & More.
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Robert Stanek has written many children’s picture books as well. Many of these take place in a BIG little place called Bugville. Today, there are about 100 Bugville Jr., Bugville Critters and Bugville Learning books available, including Explore the Solar System, Every Day Is Different, Play Their First BIG Game, and Racing Super Buster Letters. Kids really love the critters and Robert Stanek has received letters to the critters from kids all over the United States and beyond.
Over 1 million people have read the Bugville Critters books. The idea for the Bugville Critters came to Robert Stanek when he was searching for suitable books for his children. He loves cute picture books and rhyming picture books as much as any parent who’s read to every one of his children every possible night from birth until they were old enough to become avid readers on their own. But there was a dearth of children’s books with real substance, real lessons and learning written in ways relatable and meaningful to young children when his kids were babies. He couldn’t find stories that meant something or taught something in relatable and meaningful ways or were relevant. He wanted the stories to be so much more than they were, but most weren’t. So he created his own stories and his kids loved them so much he kept writing them and that’s how the Bugville Critters were born and given wings.
In the Bugville books, there’s a whole cast of critters who come from all walks of life and all backgrounds. There’s Lass Ladybug whose mother runs a farming conglomerate and whose step-father is the mayor with a mean step-brother. There’s Buster Bee whose mother is a stay-at-home mom and whose father is a factory worker. There’s Cat Caterpillar whose single-mom works at the post office. There's Dag Dragonfly from Norway. There’s Sarah Silkworm whose family recently emigrated from Japan to Bugville USA. Other critters too.
When asked which types of books he preferred writing, Robert Stanek said he didn’t really have a preference. He created what he loved in that moment. Love of the craft is what drives him.
Read on to learn the special story of how Robert Stanek created “Twelve Dresses, One Star,” “Pirates Stole My Booty,” “Mamma Sea Turtle Lost Her Babies,” and other children’s picture books.
|A silly picture book about being who you are. "Twelve dresses,
one star. Always be who you are."
Barnes & Noble
|Booty is treasure if ye be a pirate. Set sail with Buster for
epic adventures on the high seas. Buster’s dreaming of pirates and
stolen treasure. Will Buster get his treasure? Or will his pirate
foes win the day?
Barnes & Noble
|When mamma sea turtle can't find her babies, it’s up to two
special friends to find them. Can they do it? Yes, they can, and
they’ll encounter many colorful critters along the way.
Barnes & Noble
Follett Early Learning: A series of stories that address all major issues of growing up, and features Buster Bee and Lass Ladybug. Combines facts about the natural world with instructive and entertaining fiction.
Foreword Magazine: Author Stanek has a long list of best sellers, including technical publications and fiction for adults and teens. The bright, colorful illustrations are reminiscent of David Kirk's Little Miss Spider books and will captivate the young reader for whom the book is intended. This series, The Bugville Critters, helps children sort out real lessons about life, family and the natural world.
The Audio Book Store: Robert Stanek is one of our most featured and respected Kids & Young Adults, K-12 Educators and Kids authors.
Parenting Magazine "Recommended Series"
Creating Picture Books for Children by Robert Stanek
I create picture books and other works of fiction as Robert Stanek. Picture books are a misunderstood art and I want to take you behind the scenes to demystify the process by taking you from idea to print. When you're the creator, writer, and producer of an illustrated book some people think that you can sit down write, draw, revise, and poof! out comes a finished product in a few days or weeks. That's not so, the creative process for picture books and the work involved is substantial, and considerably different from traditional, non-illustrated books. To see exactly how, let's look at the creative process for one of my recent picture books:
Pirates Stole My Booty.
With Pirates Stole My Booty, I was thinking it'd be fun to write a pirate adventure story featuring my critter friends. I started working with the idea in spare moments, between other writings.
Draft. I wrote a draft of the story, let it sit a while, and revised the basic story a few times over the summer. Most picture books I plan out in panels on a storyboard and then note the paging as I work to ensure specific snippets/paragraphs of text appear on certain pages. For print, thinking about paging is especially important. Usually printed picture books are at least 24 pages in length and more likely 28, 32, or 40. When you write, you have to keep paging in mind, so you don't end up with 12 paragraphs on one page and 1 paragraph on another. Story text has to be paired with story pictures.
The basic story needs to be fairly fleshed out before illustration can begin. Why? The illustrations need to fit the story. If you decide to take the story in a different direction after starting the illustration work, you need to redo the illustrations.
Sketch. The initial illustration begins. This work usually involves sketching out each of the various scenes that'll be in the book. Sketching is a fluid process as you need to ensure the characters and scenes work as part of the story. Sometimes during the sketching, you'll get new ideas and will then revise the story accordingly, which may lead to new sketches as well.
Color. Once everything is set in concept and basic form, work can begin on coloring illustrations. During the coloring, little extras can be worked into the art, but the basic structure is already decided before hand, based on the sketches. The final work is digitized in ultra-high resolution and stored away.
Finalization. When a story has a green light and is ready to be published, I write the final version of the story and the story gets professionally edited, revised as necessary, and proofed while I review and touch up the digital, color illustrations as may be necessary. The finished text and the illustrations are merged in pre-print.
Pre-print & Pre-flight. I use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to artfully add the text to the illustrations. Each finished page becomes a page proof that I then pre-flight. Pre-flight involves proof checking the final coloring, sizing, text, story/illustration flow, etc to ensure everything is ready for print and digital release. From the page proofs, I create versions of the final work for release in print and versions of the final work for release as a digital e-book.
Rendering. The size and binding of print books determine how I process for print release. The target e-reader and distribution channel determine how I process for digital e-book release. I create a custom version for each size/binding combination and a custom version for each e-reader/channel with unique specifications. If there are 3 size/binding combos and 4 e-reader/channels, I create 7 versions of the book--one for each release version.
Release. The finished book is published.
Typically, I work on many, many projects at the same time and some of them lined up for release at the same time as Pirates Stole My Booty, including
"Twelve Dresses, One Star"
"Mamma Sea Turtle"
"How Many Fish"
"Buster's on the Job"
To get from a concept to a finished product took a while. Along the way, the books were in draft, sketch, color, or some other phase on the path to release. I don't always wear all the hats that will get a book from concept to release, but I did for these and many others. It is a lot of work--much more than when you have "people" who handle various phases of a project for you--but I think it can be much more rewarding too. If you have the writer/illustrator bug, you try it and let me know what you think! Your process may be similar, or not. You decide--because that's what creative control is all about.
Thanks for reading,
(c) 1995 - 2020 Robert Stanek