Amherst artist, creative kids craft tale of robot fox

  • —Submitted Photo

  • —Submitted Photo

  • David Hyde Costello, who is a picture book author and illustrator, draws Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at Jones Library, while creating a book children helped him conceive at the library earlier in the week. On Friday, he unveiled and read aloud the completed book titled “The Broken Robots.” —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2020 4:36:16 PM
Modified: 2/21/2020 4:36:03 PM

AMHERST — Starting out as a squiggle on a piece of paper Tuesday, by the end of the week the wavy ink line had become a fully developed story which, through black-and-white illustrations, tells the tale of a robot fox and its inventor.

With ideas and a plot initially offered by several children who dropped by the Jones Library for a brainstorming session, picture book author and illustrator David Hyde Costello on Friday unveiled and read aloud the completed book, titled “The Broken Robots.” Costello spent part of his week at the library, serving as artist in residence during the schools’ February break.

For 7-year-old Wyatt Morse of Amherst, who participated in making suggestions to Costello, including that the main character be a broken robot, the picture book is entertaining. 

“It’s a pretty good book,” Wyatt said. “It’s very silly and funny.”

Mia Cabana, head of youth services, said the idea of the program during the February school vacation was to give children, parents and caregivers the opportunity to share ideas and see how they could be developed over the course of a few days.

Once the children settled on the robot fox, they continued to come up with thoughts for how it came into existence and how it was broken. 

Costello then led them through the design, using a camera trained on the table and displaying a live feed of his work on a large-screen television, where they could see close-ups of him doing the sketches of the story as it moved toward its conclusion.

One of the illustrations shows the robot fox going to a tea party with its inventor, Costello. It is at this tea party that the fox spills tea on itself, short-circuiting its wiring and causing it to think it’s a bird. In another illustration, the fox is sitting in a bird’s nest in a tree.

During the week, Costello refined the dozen or so illustrations. Once complete, he put them together, with text, in what is known in the publishing industry as a book dummy. That book dummy was presented to Cabana so library patrons can enjoy the project, which includes a twist ending.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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