OCTOBER 2015 ;e Costco Connection 81
arts & entertainment
By Michael Evans
IT SEEMS AS though
Lynn Maslen Kertell
was destined to go into
the family business.
Although she says she
took the long way to get
where she was supposed
to be—from graphic
design school to working in restaurants, hotels
roads eventually led back to Bob Books.
Which was fine by her. Even after just a
few minutes of chatting, it’s obvious that
authoring the next generation of Bob Books
is as much a labor of love for Kertell as it was
for her parents, who originated the best-selling children’s series.
Kertell’s mother, teacher Bobby Lynn
Maslen, created the engagingly educational
books in response to a perceived dearth of
suitable materials to best inspire her pre-kindergarten-age charges to learn to read.
The first wave of Bob Books was developed in
1976 while Maslen was working at a Portland,
Oregon, private school. She did the writing,
while the illustrations came from her husband, noted watercolor artist and architect
John Maslen. As with any other such nascent
enterprise, it was a family affair from the start,
with the then-teenage Kertell and her three
siblings enlisted to help.
“The original five box sets were
all handmade,” says Kertell dur-
ing a telephone interview
from Bob Books’ home
base in Seattle. “I did the
lettering and helped paste
them up. [With] 12
books to each set,
we all hand-collated
them as well.”
distributed Bob Books
indie-style for years. When
acter development, humor … a rich life that
can only be expressed in three-letter words. It
looks simple, but it’s not.”
Kertell took over writing and running
Bob Books upon her parents’ retirement in
2005. Coincidentally, her now 15-year-old
daughter, who has dyslexia, started her initial
foray into reading around the same time.
“I never specifically thought about early
reading [education] until I had my own daugh-
ter,” recounts Kertell. “So it was just perfect for
me to start working with her and be back at
Bob Books. Getting her to read was really a
challenge. She has a pretty severe disability.
“We hear stories from so many parents,”
she says. “There are kids who are intuitive
readers and learn to read very fast. And they
love Bob Books because they can progress in
leaps and bounds. And then there are those
with autism … who get over-stimulated very
quickly. So Bob Books are great for them
because they’re not busy.”
She adds that kids with dyslexia like the
books because the progression is gentle and
they offer repetition and practice. “They really
work with a lot of different kids,” she says.
As Bob Books enters its fifth decade,
Kertell is excited about shepherding her par-
ents’ legacy into the future, especially when it
comes to utilizing emerging technology.
Recent additions such as e-books and mobile
apps are already mainstays in the product mix.
“Kids are addressing the world in a differ-
ent way now,” says Kertell. “The apps are dis-
tinctly different from the books; the characters
may be the same, but the interactions are fresh.
As an author, this is so fun. In this new digital
world we’re meeting kids where they are.
“The books are of such high quality, they
will be useful for kids learning to read for generations,” she adds. “The one thing that never
gets old is hearing a kid say, ‘I read the whole
book,’ and they’re so proud and happy.” C
Michael Evans is a writer in Portland,Oregon.
His favorite Bob Book is The Band.
the simplicity of
the series’ popularity reached critical mass in
the mid-1990s, they brought on internationally
known publishing house Scholastic to meet the
increased demand. The finished product may
be slicker now, but Bob Books still stays true to
its evergreen roots, maximizing a spare and
playful design to best connect to its key kid
demographic—as well as please pedagogically
Featuring the adventures of Mat, Sam and
other cheery monosyllabically monikered pals,
the stories are buoyed by elegantly simple prose
and artwork infused with gentle humor. Where
some competitors may pump up their volumes
with more bells and bling, Bob Books win with
their minimalist charms.
“It has to be simple for a 5-year-old, but it
can’t be dumb … that is why Bob Books have
been successful for so long,” Kertell concurs.
“On the surface, it doesn’t look complicated.
But inside there’s a whole background, char-
ILLUSTRATIONS: BOB BOOKS PUBLICATIONS
The Costco Connection
Bob Books (Item #1010279, 10/1) are
available in most Costco warehouses.
all handmade,” says Kertell dur-self-produced and