My Homage To Sendak

In my new book, Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster, I illustrate Ally's love of all things dinosaur by drawing imaginary dinosaur spikes, claws, and tail over Ally's black and white image using pink crayon (just as I did in the first book, Ally-saurus & the First Day of School).

In this new story, Ally and her friends must contend with a rather bossy girl named Maddie who insists Ally and company play monsters with her.  As with Ally's dino-persona, I illustrate Maddie's imaginary monster persona using a crayon line around her image-in this case, green .

While still writing the book-long before my first sketch-I pictured Maddie's imaginary monster looking like one of the Wild Things in Maurice Sendak's classic, Where the Wild Things Are.

As a self-taught illustrator, my formal training consisted of buying a lot of books and staring at the illustrations until I unlocked their secrets.  Included in that collection was a used copy of The Art of Maurice Sendak I read that book over and over again, finding the chapter on Where the Wild Things Are particularly insightful.  Among other things, it contains a pop-out copy of the  original book dummy, titled, Where the Wild Horses Are.  Sendak only changed it to "wild things" after he realized he couldn't draw horses (thank God!).  

 As I began my preliminary sketches for the second Ally-saurus adventure, I decided to stick with my original idea of Maddie's imaginary monster echoing Sendak's Wild Things as a silent homage to the children's book legend.  After dozens of sketches I finally hit on a combination of Wild Thing characteristics that seemed to suit Maddie perfectly.  

Like many of the Wild Things, Maddie's imaginary monster would have horns. It would also have long hair like the duck-footed Wild Thing, the fur, feet, and paws of the bear/gnome Wild Thing, with a tail as long as the striped Wild Thing but shaped like the bull-faced Wild Thing.  To top it all off, Maddie's imaginary monster would have a crown-like Max's! 


In studying The Art of Maurice SendakI also learned that Sendak gradually expanded the size of the  illustrations in Where the Wild Things Are to symbolize Max's deeper absorption into his own imagination.  The illustrations then reverse course, gradually growing smaller as Max begins to miss his home. This symbolizes the fading of Max's imaginary world as he returns to the real one.  

As part of my homage to Sendak, I worked this technique into Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster,  once again through Maddie.  As her bossy behavior continues unchecked, I illustrate Maddie's growing self-absorption by expanding her imaginary monster world, including bubbling pools of ooze, haunted trees, and slugs.  At the same time, I greatly increase the size of her crown and horns.  

  Then, when Ally-saurus finally finds her voice and stands up for her friends (and herself), Maddie's  imaginary monster world quickly shrinks, as do her crown and horns.  

Both the look of Maddie's monster persona, as well as the technique of manipulating  the size of her crown, etc. worked perfectly for the story. Had they not, my silent tribute to Mr. Sendak would have had to wait for another book.  This isn't the first time I have honored someone who has influenced my work.  I'll talk about that in an upcoming post.  


On Monday, the book trailer for Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster premiered on KidLitTV along with a wonderful writeup.  


KidLit TV is proud to premiere the book trailer for ALLY-SAURUS & THE VERY BOSSY MONSTER by Richard Torrey, the sequel to the award winning ALLY-SAURUS & THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! Your kids will love the humor and fun in this book as well as the unique characters and illustrations!

See more by clicking HERE

Frank Deford

Yesterday marked the passing of a legend, Frank Deford. 
He was a brilliant writer and editor, a visionary, and a showman. 

Mr. Deford in 2004. He wrote more than a dozen books and in 2013 he was the first sportswriter to receive a National Humanities Medal.CreditJeffery A. Salter/Sports Illustrated — Getty Images

Mr. Deford in 2004. He wrote more than a dozen books and in 2013 he was the first sportswriter to receive a National Humanities Medal.CreditJeffery A. Salter/Sports Illustrated — Getty Images


In 1989, I ended my first comic strip, Hartland and began doing editorial cartoons and story illustrations for the brand new sports daily-The National. Frank Deford was the editor.  
It was great exposure, wonderfully challenging work, insane deadlines...but they paid VERY well...which is why they only lasted two years. To this day, it was the most fun I've ever had doing what I do.

Toward the end of The National's run, Deford asked me to create an exclusive sports comic strip-which I did. Days after getting editorial approval for the strip (called Benchwarmers), The National went belly up.

I subsequently changed the name of the strip to Pete & Clete and sold it to Creators Syndicate in LA.

RIP Mr. Deford. Thank you for the wild ride.  

Read more about Frank Deford in the NY Times by clicking here.

The National editorial cartoon copy.jpg


Below is the brand new book trailer I have created for my book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE. It is the first trailer I've ever done for any of my 14 books.

My aim was to produce something simple and straightforward, allowing the children's expressions to help tell the story, precisely as I had done in the creation of the book. 

The book trailer debuted last week on the Mundie Kids blog, which included a wonderful review of the book and has since been featured on KidlitTV.

Hiding Spot Blog Interview

Recently I was interviewed by Sara Grochowski for her wonderful blog, The Hiding Spot (a blog dedicated to books...the best hiding spot I've ever found). 

I'm thrilled to share an interview with talented and very kind Richard Torrey, whose newest picture book, The Almost Terrible Playdate, is in stores now!

Hiding Spot: I feel the plot of the The Almost Terrible Playdate is one that everyone, no matter their age, can relate to. Was there a specific experience that inspired the concept of this book? 

RT: The original idea for this book can be traced back to a day I watched my children and their friends draw with chalk on our driveway. It suddenly dawned on me that child’s play is really a series of negotiations-proposals and counterproposals.  
“What if we do this?” “No, how about we do this?” “I know, how about we do this?”  

What struck me was the fact that these negotiations never seemed to end. As long as the activity was going on, the negotiations continued. In other words, the act of negotiating seemed to be an enjoyable and integral part of the playing experience. I’ve wanted to do a book about the essence of play ever since. I guess you could say this book is a one-act play about playing....

CLICK HERE to read the entire interview.


"THIS KID REVIEWS BOOKS" Gives The Almost Terrible Playdate Five out of Five Bookworms!

Recently the book review blog, THIS KID REVIEWS BOOKS featured my new book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE:

What I Thought- I loved the story. The dialogue between the two characters are funny, and extremely realistic – Mr. Torrey really captures the sense of two very different kids playing together. The illustrations are unique as most of the page is taken up by a thought bubble, and the image inside the bubble looks as if it were drawn by a little kid – reflecting the imagination of a child. I also like the book because it is all conversation – there is no narration. 

Click here to read the entire review.


The Almost Terrible Playdate is an adorable little book about two children that can’t seem to get a long, which is very much how my boys can be some days. They are the best of friends, but let’s face it.  They are two different people and obviously they want to play different things.  Luckily in the end, it all works out and they compromise which is what happens in this adorable book....Read the rest of the review by clicking here.  

Booklist Calls THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE "A Playful and Accessible Introduction to Cooperation."

14 days until the release of my next book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE.  Yesterday it was selected as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month of February.  Today, Booklist published it's review, using words like charming, valuable, entertaining, and playful to describe the book! 

THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE Torrey, Richard (Author) , Torrey, Richard (Illustrator) Feb 2016. 40 p. Doubleday, hardcover, $16.99. (9780553510997).                                                          

In squiggly colored-pencil and ink drawings accentuated with charming thought bubbles, Torrey captures the sprite antics of a mismatched play date. The story opens with a seemingly easy question—“What do you want to play?”—and a boy and girl propose games (which are quite gendered) on facing pages, foreshadowing their ensuing drama. The boy and girl alternate suggesting and rejecting ideas, and as their ideas escalate in intensity, both of the kids, in their color-coded, scribbled thought bubbles, creatively imagine the destructions of the other’s idea, which imbues the conflict with wit and charm. “What if I’m a ballet instructor and you’re in my ballet school?” asks the girl, while the boy imagines himself frowning while wearing a tutu. The boy’s suggestion elicits a similar response from the girl, and so it continues until they wonder whether they can play together at all. Playing alone is not as much fun, however, and as the story progresses, they learn a valuable and entertaining lesson about compromise. A playful and accessible introduction to cooperation. — Annie Miller

A Bitter Sweet Day

Today I received word that my new book, THE ALMOST TERRIBLE PLAYDATE has been selected as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month for February.  Exactly one year ago today, my brother-in-law Phil Harnick suffered a devastating  heart attack.  The completion of my book coincided with his passing.

I have dedicated the book to Phil's memory.  It is a small gesture, but done with deep love and admiration, not only for Phil, but for his wife Janet, for their two beautiful children Cole and Ty, for his parents Yvonne and Jack, for my brother-in-law Jack and his family, and last but never least for his sister-my wife, Sue. 

We all miss you Phil.