Events and Visits

One of the best things about drawing and writing for children is going on the road to meet children’s book readers; the young and the not-as-young.

I am always more than happy to arrange a visit to your local school, festival or any other book-oriented event. Sometimes, I can even persuade Zoë to come along to add her perspective. That’s a treat.

Since I work in formats ranging from board books to young adult books, my school visits can be tailored for kindergarteners through fifth or sixth graders. 

My main aim is to further the students’ understanding of the story-making process. Character, plot and setting. Beginning. middle and end. How is a book like a movie? Where might that initial idea come from and why does is take sometimes an instant and sometimes a year to get to the nub of a story? What does an editor do and why can’t the author/illustrator do that stuff on their own?

Of course, I’m also happy to talk about specific examples of the characters I’ve illustrated and how I came to picture them. These topics are usually best suited to larger audiences at festivals or professional groups who have an interest in either particular characters or the inner workings of publishing. In these cases, the scope and form of the presentation will vary with the group’s focus.

Basic Speaking Info

  • For school visits, the spaces can range in size from individual classrooms to libraries to auditoriums and gyms. 
  • Depending on the age group, the talks run between 35 to 45 minutes with extra time added for questions. 
  • No more than three classroom talks in a day. One in larger venues.
  • For other venues, usually the event centers on one talk running at least 45 minutes with extra time added for questions and signing.

For both school visits and visits to other venues, I use a combination of materials. These are the basic needs:

  • Good-sized blackboard, chalk and an eraser or access to a whiteboard (I have markers for whiteboards). With quick sketching and erasing, I’ll show how characters and settings for stories are developed from the initial written descriptions in the text. For examples, I may use a known story or poll the audience for inspiration.
  • An easel and a large pad of paper. I’ll bring the drawing materials, but the venue gets the resulting pictures — after all it’s their paper.
  • Finally, some simple way to plug in an ipad that contains a brief powerpoint slideshow of my actual drawing process, finished work, studio and other interesting things that are not easily transportable to the venue.

Presentations; here’s a partial listing:

  •  Young kids: “How do you draw a nose?” (one of my favorite questions, ever)
    This all about giving the children permission to follow their own drawing instincts by demonstrating how drawings (and stories) are developed with lots of starting and stopping and reworking and not trying – or expecting – to get everything ‘right’ on the first pass.
    I’ll use one of my books as a prompt.
    If the venue can be set-up to allow the children access to paper and crayons or pencils while I’m drawing and talking to them, that is ideal.
  • Graphic Books: “Telling a story in a comic panel format.”
    Using the two very clever, large scale comic panel books that I illustrated and that my wife, Zoë B. Alley wrote, I’ll talk about how to use the devices and standard practices of this most elastic and actually very old method of storytelling to tell a tale.
    This talk can be tailored to a variety of age groups.
    Drawing will be done.
  • Making Books Together: “Zoë and Bob make a book.”
    Relying on a powerpoint for structure and general silliness to counteract that structure, Zoë and I describe how we collaborate on making a book.
    Again, this talk can be tailored to a variety of age groups.
  • Paddington: “Paddington at Paddington Station.”
    Reading the original picture book story of Paddington and then drawing the bear in action, I introduce younger children to his world.
    This presentation is similar in content to “How do you draw a nose?” and is aimed at a young age group.
  • Paddington: “60 years and counting.”
    Using a powerpoint and my degree in art history, I present the story of Paddington and his creator, Michael Bond.
    I’ll discuss why Paddington has remained relevant over the years and how, now more than ever, his view of the world in a welcome thing amid the smash bang of much entertainment aimed at children.
    This is an adult-oriented presentation.

Booking an Event

For information on availability and programs and honorariums, please direct your questions to Sarah Azibo at  The Booking Biz .  She will happily help arrange speaking engagements at schools, festivals, conferences and all sorts of other venues, in both the US and abroad – something I know Paddington would greatly appreciate. 

Presentations are best planned at least six months in advance for local events, further ahead for events requiring an overnight stay.  That said, don’t be shy about last-minute requests.  You never know.

Book signing can always be a part of whatever event is planned.  Advance book sales are highly recommended, since they raise interest in the program and help book signings go more smoothly.  Sarah can help with this.


Upcoming Events:

July 25, 2018


One Bay Street Center, Watch Hill, RI

Please stop by the 5th annual fundraiser for Opening Doors a Westerly RI non-profit that promotes early childhood literacy for children-in-need, pre-K to 4th grade.

I’ll be signing books and drawing pictures!

And, I won’t be the only illustrator/author on hand!

*  you can find more details at Opening Doors Westerly

September 27, 2018

2018 Carle Honors

Guastavino’s, 409 East 59th Street, New York

I hope you’ll get your tickets for this benefit gala in support of the wonderful, unique and generally extraordinary Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art .

Cocktails begin at 5pm, during which you can view and bid on a wide range of original children’s book art , including an original Paddington pen and ink and watercolor I prepared especially for this event.

September 29th, 2018

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

125 West Bay Road, Amherst, Massachusetts

On this Saturday before the last week of Paddington Comes to America, I’ll present a short talk and do some drawing and some reading and some book signing. 

* you can find more details at the Eric Carle Museum


Event and Visit links:

The Booking Biz is very good at arranging speaking engagements at schools, festivals, conferences and all sorts of other venues, in both the US and abroad – which I know Paddington would greatly appreciate.  Please direct your questions to Sarah Azibo

While you’re thinking about all the above, here’s snippets from the Nantucket Book Festival: a youtube link of me drawing Paddington


as filmed by Nantucket Community Television, me and Zoë speaking about collaborating on making books (well, Zoë is, I seem to have broken my microphone).