Shoreham children's book author Richard Torrey, author of "Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School," is the author/illustrator of 14 books and is also the creator of greeting cards for Recycled Paper Greetings.
Torrey began doodling as soon as he could hold a crayon. In fact, in third grade, he was inspired by comic strip creator, Charles Schulz. He's also the son of Hockey Hall-of-Famer, Bill Torrey, and has two children, ages 24 and 19. Here he talks about his family, his books and more.
Q. Did your kids struggle with the first day of school?
A. "I think my wife and I had a harder time with the first days of school than our kids. I also think all kids have a tough time in their own way. It's a huge step, especially for those who never went to pre-K or camp. It's like being sent to another planet filled with unknown creatures (the other kids). That first week or so is life-altering."
Q. What was your inspiration behind "Ally-Saurus?"
A. "I had been thinking back on how my son, when he was four or five, would describe himself as a big fierce dog with a spiked collar and big sharp teeth. He was very precise in his description and made sure to repeat it quite often, in case we had forgotten anything from the previous 400 times he had told us the same thing. It suddenly dawned on me that my son had probably used his imagination (thinking of himself as something big and powerful) to help him throughout his preschool and early elementary years. That idea, combined with the simple crayon 'aura' of Ally's dinosaur persona are what drove the story. Ally herself is the spitting image of my daughter at that age, who thought she was Belle from 'Beauty and the Beast.'
Q. Do you let the images in your books direct the words or vice versa?
A. "Charles Schulz once said, 'there are artists that write and there are writers that draw.'
I would say I'm an artist that writes. In other words, I think visually. My first book, 'Beans Baker, Number Five' was the only story I ever wrote the traditional way -- sitting at the computer and typing. It worked in that instance, but I soon discovered that if I instead storyboarded my work out with small thumbnail drawings and hand-written text, I felt much more in touch with my work. I literally have hundreds of large sheets of paper divided into sixteen or eighteen 'spreads' with tiny pencil drawings and writing on them. That's how I work -- it allows a constant ping-ponging back and forth between words and pictures."
Q. What do you and your family enjoy doing on Long Island for fun?
A. "For the better part of the past 10-12 years my son has played travel hockey before heading off to play at prep school and now college. So much of our 'free time' has been spent in rinks, or traveling to and from them. As a side note, with my kids loving hockey as much as they do, I do lament that they were not yet born during the heyday of the Islander Stanley Cup run, when my dad ran the team. I try to describe how much fun it was during those years, but I don't think I can possibly do it justice. We have always enjoyed Long Island's beaches and spent many a summer day at Cupsogue or out in Montauk. I also golf (badly). And with the great summer weather we get, one of my favorite things to do on Long Island (especially when my family is all together) is to sit by the pool and do nothing."
Q. What's up next for you?
A. "This has easily been the busiest year I've had. I have three books coming out in a ten month span. 'Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School' (Sterling) came out in May. 'My Dog, BOB' (Holiday House) will be out this month. And in February, 'The Almost Terrible Playdate' (Random House/Doubleday) comes out, which will be my 14th book. I'll be busy promoting the three books. I'm currently working on three to four more story ideas, including a second 'Ally-Saurus' book."