When Bad Things Happen to Good Characters
Jonathan Roth | The Children’s Book Review | October 23, 2018
“Where’s my editor going with that ax?” I said to my writing group one morning in the coffee shop.
“To your title page,” replied my writing partners. “You may have used too many words.”
“I don’t see why she needs an ax!” I said.
In truth, the ax wasn’t unexpected. From the moment my publisher acquired my debut chapter book series, I knew the long initial title was in grave jeopardy. What was written as Beep and Bob’s Horrible Adventures in Space was soon, and rightly, changed to the pithy Beep and Bob.
Though I was fine with letting it go, I’ll admit now that the word “horrible” in the title was a guiding light I followed as I wrote these tales. Though I’m quite fond of my protagonist Bob—he’s a gentle if ordinary soul—it’s a sad truth of story telling that the most effective way to move things along is to have bad things happen to your characters.
In book one, Too Much Space!, Bob is introduced as someone who isn’t a big fan of school and is easily terrified by heights, darkness, spiders and just about anything. So where do I put him on page one? In a high orbit space school of course! (With a best friend who always carries a jar of her three pet tarantulas.) And what happens when he discovers a quick fix for ridding himself of these fears? I pull away at the worst possible moment, and stick one of the spiders in his space helmet!
Okay, I actually felt kind of bad for doing all that. So in book two, Party Crashers, I let Bob spend the entire time attending an extravagant birthday party for his friend during the maiden voyage of the luxurious Starship…Titanic.
Am I mean to my characters or what?
Which brings us to the newly released book three, Take Us to Your Sugar. I’m almost afraid to give this one to kids, because in my efforts to amp up the horrible situations, I hit Bob where it really hurts: his sweet tooth. As this story opens, Bob, who is totally dependent on the space station school cafeteria food for all his meals, learns that the machine that produces the sugar which flavors everything from ketchup to ice cream is broken. And the new parts won’t arrive for months!
The only silver lining is that Halloween is just around the corner, and Bob figures that if he collects enough bulging bags of candy, he can possibly make it to spring. But then he learns that Halloween isn’t celebrated at space school!
So what is poor Bob to do? Endure unsweetened food and possibly an improvement to his health? Or come up with a plan?!
There’s a famous saying about the 3-act structure of fiction: “Get your characters up in a space ship, throw asteroids at them, and then have them find a way down.” (Okay, maybe the original quote says “tree” and “rocks,” but for my purposes there are no trees in space.) And while I’ve been emphasizing the first couple parts of this story principal, it is the last crucial step which finally explains why we take our characters to the limits of their endurance: so they can find a way to face their fears and grow.
I know, maybe not the greatest consolation for them, but of utmost importance to young readers. Even us big kids often still look to fictional characters and the choices they make for our own consolation and inspiration. Just don’t tell Bob I took away his candy for a reason, or he may go on strike before I finish book number four.
About the Author-Illustrator
Author-illustrator Jonathan Roth is a public elementary school art teacher in Maryland who likes reading, writing, drawing, cycling, and napping. Though he has never left the Earth, he has met four of the astronauts who have gone to the moon. Beep and Bob is his first series. To learn more, and to download a free Beep and Bob activity kit, visit his website: beepandbob.com.
Written and Illustrated by Jonathan Roth
Publisher’s Synopsis: Beep and his best friend Bob hatch a plan to save Halloween—and their school—in this third book in the hilarious, action-packed Beep and Bob series!
It’s October in space, and Bob is getting excited for his favorite holiday: Halloween. When Bob tells Beep that soon they’ll get to dress up like monsters and get as much free candy as they can carry, Beep thinks he has gone to heaven. But Lani informs them that Halloween isn’t celebrated at Astro Elementary.
Bob cannot imagine life without Halloween! He appeals to Principal Quark, but with no success. Determined to save Halloween, Bob and Lani organize a secret club: SCARES (Scary Costumes Are the Right of Every Student, or, more truthfully, the Society of Candy Addicts who Rely on Energy from Sugar).
As the secret club grows, Halloween fever invades Astro Elementary. Unfortunately, a horde of grotesque aliens, attracted by the treats, also invades the school on the last day of the month. With everyone in costume, no one can tell who’s who. Beep and Bob may have saved the holiday, but can they somehow use their sugar-addled wits to save the school?
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Aladdin | September 11, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1481488587
Praise For Beep and Bob
“Pretty sporky, as Bob would approvingly put it.” —Booklist
“A strong addition to any library’s chapter book selection.” —School Library Journal
Enter for a chance to win a set of all four Beep and Bob books; Including Take Us to Your Sugar, written And illustrated by Jonathan Roth!
Three (3) lucky winners receive:
- A copy of Too Much Space!
- A copy of Party Crashers
- A copy of Take Us To Your Sugar
- A copy of Double Trouble
Giveaway begins October 23, 2018, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends November 23, 2018, at 11:59 P.M. MT.
How To Enter
- Complete the entry form below.
- Enter once daily (optional).
- NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.
- Enter between 12:00 AM Mountain Time on October 23, 2018, and 11:59 PM on November 23, 2018.
- Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.
- Winners will be selected at random on or about November 27, 2018.
- Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
- The Children’s Book Review is not responsible for prize fulfillment.
Prizes Courtesy of Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Discover more books like Beep and Bob: Take Us to Your Sugar, written and illustrated by Jonathan Roth, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our articles tagged with Aliens, Creative Writing, Halloween Books, Illustrated Chapter Books, Space, and Writing Tips.