The following tribute can be found in the back of my latest book, Benjamin Blair and the Case of the Missing Noun Hound. It sums up why this project has been so special. My parents both brainstormed the birth of Ned the Noun Hound with me in the mid-90s. Ned has four friends that I hope to introduce you someday. But those are other stories...
A Tribute to the Illustrator
My dad, Robin Heller, was a commercial artist in the days before computers. He designed complete layouts for magazines by hand! When his job was taken over by the digital age, he turned to what had been a hobby in his earlier days: drawing a comic strip.
When I was a little girl, my parents called me Alyson. I remember watching my dad sit at the kitchen table working on his characters. His comic about Mukluk the Eskimo appeared in papers from Pennsylvania to Alaska and even the Denver Post in the early 1990s. You need to be in a ton of papers to make a living from that, so he would visit schools and do a program called Let’s Draw. He taught students how to draw Mukluk but also the basics of making a living as an artist.
My first job inhigh school was as a page in a library (an employee who carries messages, ushers guests, runs
errands, etc.). The ongoing joke in my family was that maybe someday I’d be promoted to a chapter. My actual
job entailed filing cards from books when people checked them out, finding the cards forthe right books when they were returned, and then re-shelving books for the next interested patrons. This was also in the days before computers!
As I’d sit for hours sorting through authors’ last names, I’d dream of someday seeing a card with my name on it. Knowing my dad’s artistic talent, I hoped to someday see a book captioned,
Author: Alyson Heller
Illustrator: Robin Heller
Fast-forward almost thirty years and this first book in the Character Club Lil Sibs series fulfills that dream to co-create a book project with my dad! My name is now Allie Slocum, but I’m so proud to have been able to coax him out of retirement. Thanks, Dad, it’s been so special to work with you!