Brobot book cover. Image: Fremantle Press

Brobot book cover. Image: Fremantle Press

By Heather Zubek

JAMES Foley says he got along well with his younger brother and sister, but if you read his book Brobot you might think otherwise.

Brobot tells the story of bossy Sally Tinker, the world’s best inventor under the age of 12.

Sally makes all kinds of things but her baby brother breaks them.  So she invents Brobot, a “better” little brother.

The S.Tinker of the family

“As the older brother [in my family], I was the bossy one,” says Mr Foley from his home in Perth. “You could say I was the Sally Tinker of the family.”

He has illustrated many books for younger readers, including The Last Viking and My Dead Bunny.

He allows readers to get a behind-the-scenes look at his work on a blog that’s linked to his website.  Readers can watch his characters develop through hundreds of sketches and notes.

Writer and illustrator James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

Writer and illustrator James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

Writer and illustrator James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

Robotics babies

“Five years ago I had a weird little drawing in my sketch book of this girl who looked like an inventor,” he says.

“On the same page I thought I’d draw some inventions, and one of them was a small robotic baby with a star on his chest.”

That robotic baby changed into a little brother and the story of Brobot developed.

Mr Foley is an illustrator so he had to learn how to write a good story.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing in terms of writing,” he says. “I knew I could do illustration but I hadn’t done much writing since I was a kid.”

Writer and illustrator James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

Writer and illustrator James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

Writer and illustrator James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

Messing up

He wrote about 50 drafts of Brobot but still wasn’t happy with the story.

“I needed to do a lot of practise and mess up a lot of times,” he says.

In the end Mr Foley wrote the story from Sally’s point of view and it seems to have worked.

Dungzilla is coming!

Now Mr Foley is working on the next book with Sally’s latest invention.

“Sally invents a resizing ray that makes things really big or really small,” he says.

Nothing ever goes to plan with the Tinker family so when Sally’s friend Charlie, the world’s best biologist under the age of 11, brings a pet dung beetle over things get interesting.

“The beetle gets stuck in the resizing ray and it becomes a giant dung beetle called Douglas,” says Mr Foley.

“The book is called Dungzilla which will be published later in the year.”

James Foley will appear at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May talking about vikings, zombies, and robots.

Writer and illustrator James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

James Foley shares all his sketches and drawings of his characters in Brobot with his readers. Illustration: James Foley

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