Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, two masterminds of classic, middle-grade fiction come together to craft this magical story about the enduring power of friendship.
It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.
It turns out she’s right.
Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who—or what—he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.
Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.
Praise for Bob:
"Authors Mass and Stead team up for this irresistible tale of magic, mystery, and friendship that poses timeless questions about identity and belonging. . .a tribute to the power of storytelling.." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A perfectly paced plot, supported by secondary characters to whom readers will relate and luminous artwork by Gannon, fill out a story that readers will eagerly embrace. A must-have. . .this novel delights." —School Library Journal, starred review
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About the Author
Wendy Mass is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Candymakers series and many other novels for young readers, including the Schneider Family Book Award-winner A Mango-Shaped Space, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (which was made into a feature film), Every Soul a Star, Pi in the Sky, the Twice Upon a Time series, and the Willow Falls series that began with 11 Birthdays. She and her family live in New Jersey.
Rebecca Stead is the New York Times-bestselling author of When You Reach Me, winner of the Newbery Medal; Liar & Spy; FirstLight; and Goodbye Stranger. Her work has been also been awarded the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Fiction and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. She lives in New York City with her family and their lazy but beautiful cat.
Nicholas Gannon is the illustrator of Bob, a picture book by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stea.
Read an Excerpt
I feel bad that I can't remember anything about Gran Nicholas's house. On the table in her kitchen Gran has lined up three things I do not remember:
1. A green stuffed elephant in overalls.
2. A net bag full of black chess pieces.
3. A clunky old tape recorder.
"You loved these things when you were here before," Gran Nicholas tells me.
But I don't remember any of it.
"Not the horses?" Gran Nicholas says, pointing out the window to a dusty yard. Maybe there were horses there once?
"Not the pigs?" Gran Nicholas says, pointing out the back door. If I squint I can make out some pigs behind a fence. But I don't remember them.
"Not this?" she says, holding up the green stuffed elephant. "When you were here before, you wouldn't let go of it. You carried it everywhere. You wouldn't let anyone get near it!"
But it's like I've never laid eyes on that green stuffed elephant in my life. It could have been anyone's green stuffed elephant, and I would not have minded.
Mom looks nervous. She wants me to remember. But it's her fault I don't — she brought me here for a month when I was five and didn't bring me back again until now, when I am practically eleven.
Ten and a half.
Of course, I do remember Gran herself, because we talk on the phone every week, and we write each other postcards. Gran tells me the news of Australia and I tell her the news of Massachusetts. She came to visit us once, for two weeks. But I don't remember one thing about her house.
Actually, maybe I do remember one thing.
I think I remember a wrong chicken.
I remember chickens, and one chicken that was different. One chicken was not like the other chickens, is what I remember. But standing here in the kitchen with everyone looking at me, I don't know how to ask Gran about that.
I pick up the elephant. It's soft and floppy. I still don't remember it.
Gran Nicholas sighs. She doesn't say what I know she wants to say, which is that we should have come back sooner.
On the other hand, Australia is very far away from Massachusetts.
If you want to get from our house to Gran Nicholas's house, this is what you have to do:
1. Drive from Massachusetts to New York City for four hours.
2. Park the car and wait for a bus to the airport.
3. Take a plane for seven hours to California.
4. Get off that plane.
5. Take another plane for nineteen hours to Melbourne, Australia.
6. Get off that plane.
7. Wait in three different lines while official people look at your bags and your papers.
8. Wait in the rental car line.
9. Drive the car for two hours in Australia.
10. Get to Gran's house.
Now Mom's going to leave me here again while she goes to visit all her friends from growing up. The baby is too young to stay with Gran Nicholas, so she's going with Mom.
I wonder what it's like here at night.
I look at the chess pieces. Does Gran have the white ones? I open my mouth to ask, but instead I hear myself say:
"Are there ... chickens?"
"Yes!" She gets excited, and Mom looks happy. Gran grabs my hand and runs me out to the yard, where some chickens are pecking in the dirt. I look them over but they all look regular.
"Are these the same chickens?" I ask Gran Nicholas.
She says they are different chickens. But the idea of chickens is right.
I don't exactly know how to ask the next question. "Did you used to have one that was ... weird?"
"Weird?" she asks.
Maybe there wasn't a weird one. Or maybe they don't say weird in Australia.
"Never mind," I say. I realize I'm squeezing something in the hand that Gran is not holding. I open it and see one of the black chess pieces. A pawn.
Then, coming back into the house with Gran, I see Gran's back stairs. They have carpet on them, and I suddenly know that I have bumped down those stairs.
"Did I ever bump down those stairs?" I ask Gran, pointing.
"Yes!" she says. "You loved bumping down those stairs. You had a name for it."
"A name for the stairs?"
"No, for bumping down them. You called it something...."
I think she is right. I think I did call it something. But neither of us can remember what it was.
Now that I've remembered the chickens and the stairs, Mom looks happier, like maybe Gran won't think we stayed away too long after all. The baby starts doing some pre-crying in her baby seat. Dad and I invented the word pre-crying, which means the crying that comes right before the really loud crying. Mom isn't fussing with her because she wants me to know that this trip is about me having special time with Gran Nicholas, and not just for Gran to finally see the baby in real life. I heard Mom talking to Dad about it the day we left home. Mom said, "I want Olivia to know that this trip is about her having special time with Gran. Not just about the baby."
And Dad said, "I know, hon. You told me yesterday. And this morning."
Dad didn't come to Australia with us. He's at home, building a new room for the baby. He says it'll be ready when we get back.
Then I sort of remember another thing. It's something about the second floor, but I'm not sure exactly what about the second floor it is. I'm still squeezing that black pawn. It feels good in my hand.
"Is there something about the second floor?" I ask.
"Yes!" Gran says. "The second floor is where your room is. And your four-poster bed!"
But what I remember about the second floor is not a big bed with a canopy. I still don't know what it is, but it is not that.
"May I be excused?" I ask, already turning toward the stairs.
"I'll come up with you," Mom says. "Your room used to be my room when I was a little girl, remember?"
I stop, one hand on the railing of the carpeted stairs that I used to bump down. For some reason, I think I'm supposed to go up alone. I glance at Beth Ann, who is still wiggling in her seat. Our eyes meet. As if she knows what I'm thinking, she quits her pre-crying and makes her someone feed me whimper. Mom turns toward her, torn between the two of us. I zoom up the stairs.
The doors along the upstairs hallway are open. I peek into what must be Gran's room, where a patchwork quilt is pulled over the bed. I pass the bathroom, where soaps in the shapes of ducks and chicks pretend to march along the counter toward the sink. By the time I reach the last room — my room — I'm almost running. I'm not sure why.
Then I see the closet. I still don't remember the bed, or the bright pink curtains. But I remember this closet. It's small — the door seems like only half a door, and there can't be much room on the other side.
I think I left something inside. Something really, really important.
My hand reaches for the doorknob. I know exactly where the light cord is, and I watch my hand reach out and pull it. The light flickers on.
Here is what I see:
1. A high shelf, jammed with shoeboxes and falling-down stacks of old comic books.
2. Below that, clothes on hangers dangle from a bar. There's a tutu with sequins and a few summer dresses for someone a lot smaller than me. Maybe Gran is keeping them for Beth Ann in a long, long time. Right now, Beth Ann is so small she can barely keep a shirt on. One shoulder is always falling out of the neck hole. If I try to fix it, she cries.
3. On the floor, under the little dresses, a Lego pirate ship sits on the brown carpet. It has four sails and a mast and a lookout tower and even a swimming pool. It must have taken a long time to build.
4. Next to the pirate ship is a thick, old dictionary.
5. And standing on top of the dictionary is a small zombie wearing a chicken suit. He's rubbing his eyes, a Lego pirate clutched in one green hand. When his eyes adjust to the light, he uses them to look me up and down.
Then he says, "You're back. Took you long enough."CHAPTER 2
Her brown hair is longer and her cheeks are less round, but I know it's her. Livy. She told me to wait here, and I waited. Five years is a long time to hang out in a closet, but what else did I have going on? Not much, I'll tell you that.
Here are some of the things I did while I awaited her return:
1. Counted to 987,654,321. Six times.
2. Built a Lego pirate ship. Sixty-three times. In the dark.
3. Played chess against a Lego pirate monkey and still lost most of the time.
4. Tried to do the hokey pokey like Livy had taught me, but there's not much room to turn oneself around in this narrow closet without hitting the walls.
5. Cried. But only once.
6. Okay, twice. Each day. But only for the first year.
7. Meditated a few times after hearing Gran play a self-help tape on the benefits of calming the mind. This was actually not bad even though my legs cramped from sitting cross-legged.
8. Took a lot of naps, some lasting a few weeks at a time.
9. Thought of all the reasons that might explain why Livy didn't come back for me.
a) She was abducted by aliens. (But I am not convinced aliens exist. Zombies, yes; other monsters, probably; but aliens ... not sure.)
b) Her family won the Saturday Lotto and went on the world's longest world tour. (If so, she could have stopped here to pick me up. I am small enough to fit in an overhead bin, and I do enjoy a nice salty peanut snack.)
c) She discovered an ancient mummy in Egypt and got busy giving interviews. (But I think I would have heard Gran Nicholas talk about this on the phone. Gran is a loud talker, and I have excellent hearing.)
d) She got scared. (But Livy is the bravest person I've ever met.)
e) She just didn't like me anymore. (This is the one that led to the crying.)
But now she stands before me and she looks so sorry and surprised that it is hard to be mad at her. I still am, but less. "You are all grown up," I say, letting the hand holding the Lego pirate swing behind my back.
She flips her hair over one shoulder. "Almost eleven."
"You are a lot taller and your face is not as mushy."
She reaches out a hand toward me but then lets it fall back. "I'm so sorry."
"You told me to wait for you in the closet. You said you'd be right back."
She tilts her head at me, just like she used to do before when she was trying to puzzle something out. "Did I really say I'd be right back?"
I consider this. "Well, you did say you'd see me soon. Five years isn't soon. It isn't even soon-ish."
Livy looks at her feet. "I can't remember anything. Honestly."
I do not reply. What can I say? All I did for five years was remember, and all she did was forget.
I narrow my eyes at her. This is not easy, because I don't actually have eyelids. I focus on looking skeptical and nonplussed. I know words like skeptical and nonplussed and a whole lot more because for twenty-six minutes each afternoon a shaft of sunlight shines through the doorframe of the closet and I read the dictionary. If I'd known about the light, I'd have gotten further than the Ts.
She takes in my firm stance and my disapproving expression and my toes, tapping on the carpet. I am laying on the guilt trip pretty heavy. Then she rolls her eyes and puts her hands on her hips.
"I was five."
We hold each other's gazes until I sigh. She's right, of course. How can I blame her? She was this tiny slip of a girl, barely old enough to write her own name and tie her own shoes. I was ten at the time. For the record, I am still ten. I've always been ten, as far as I know.
Still, Livy was the kind of five-year-old who could get things done.
Wasn't it Livy who found me and saved me?
Wasn't it Livy who made me the chicken suit?
And taught me to walk in it?
Wasn't it Livy who promised she'd help me find my way home?
Five years is a long time to wait. But if she could do all that when she was little, she must be able to do much more now. Maybe this time, she will find my answers. Maybe this time, she will get me home.CHAPTER 3
The zombie must have decided to forgive me because he (it?) is smiling at me now. But it is a smile like when you have decided to smile, not the kind of smile that just happens on its own.
This is what a smiling zombie looks like:
2. Green skin. Not grass green, more like inside-an-avocado green.
3. No hair, unless you count one long eyebrow and the patchy fuzz growing on the top of his head.
4. Pretty skinny. I can see one knobby knee sticking out of the chicken suit where a seam has come undone.
5. Big melted-chocolate brown eyes.
6. No eyelids.
7. Smooth skin, at least the parts I can see.
8. A nose.
9. White teeth.
10. Lips turned up at the ends. Like I said, it was a potentially fake smile.
"Is that a ... chicken suit?" I ask. It doesn't actually make him look anything like a chicken. In fact, don't ask me how I even know it's a chicken suit.
He sniffs. "Of course. It's THE chicken suit. The one you made for me." He reaches behind his neck and yanks the hood up. It's just some orangey cloth with glued-on feathers and an oversized red-felt chicken comb stuck on top of the hood. It looks like a little kid cut it out with bad scissors and glued it there.
I point at him. "I made ... that?"
He tilts his head, and the red-felt chicken comb flops to one side. "Of course you made it! I didn't even know what a chicken WAS before I met you."
I learned about chicken combs in kindergarten when our class visited a farm. There was a huge rooster there named Queen. How come I remember the name of a rooster I met in kindergarten, but I don't remember ... this?
"Why are you wearing a chicken suit? In here." In the closet, I meant, where he seems to live.
He sniffs again. "I am wearing it so that I will be ready." He hikes up one side of the thing, and the other side droops toward the floor.
"Ready for what?"
He gives me a long stare, and I figure this is another thing I'm supposed to remember.
"And why's it like — half on, half off? It reminds me of this kid in my class last year who always wore his coat with one arm pulled out of the sleeve."
"If you must know, I started to remove it about a year ago. I thought I might as well change clothes. But I'm afraid my left foot might be detached. There was an unfortunate incident involving the dictionary."
"You were attacked by a dictionary?"
"I didn't say that. It was more of a tipping-over." He glares at the dictionary, then strokes it like it's a pet rabbit or something. "Zombie parts detach very easily, you know. If I take the rest of the chicken suit off, the foot may peel right off with it!"
I eye him carefully. "What's your name?" I ask.
The zombie drops something on the floor. I look down at his feet and see the Lego pirate. The pirate's hat has fallen off, and his little arms are stretched out toward it like he's trying to get it back. When I look up, the zombie has that mad look on his face again.
"You don't remember my name?" he asks. Then I realize he isn't mad. His feelings are hurt.
This is how a zombie looks when his feelings are hurt:
1. Pretty much the same as before, except the one eyebrow goes up and both sides of the mouth go down.
"I'm sure I'll remember it," I say quickly, "but if you tell me now, I'll know it sooner."
"I don't think I will," the zombie says. "I think I'll let you remember it, since you're so great at remembering things."
"Olivia!" It's Mom, calling from downstairs.
"That's me," I tell the zombie. "I'm Olivia. People call me Livy."
He rolls his eyes. "I know your name!" Then he uses one foot to nudge the Lego pirate toward his ship. He does the same with the pirate's black hat. "The small pieces are really easy to lose," he mumbles.
"Olivia!" Mom calls again. Her voice is closer this time.
"I have to go eat," I say. "But I'll be back." I pull the light cord and close the closet door.
"I've heard that before," he mutters from the other side.
* * *
Gran has made ham-and-cheese sandwiches with pickles. Mom must have told her that it's my second-favorite lunch, after tacos. She pours us glasses of milk.
"To rain," Gran says, raising her glass.
Mom glances at me and then raises her glass. "To rain!" she says.
Then they look at me, so I say it, too.
Beth Ann can't even hold a glass. She just points at Gran's nose. She likes to point at people's noses.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Bob"
Copyright © 2018 Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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