Friday, December 28, 2012

My Uncle Bob and Bobby's Biggest Bubble in the local news

The following was taken from the Suburban Newspaper, Dec. 28, 2012.

Jim Romer bases story on his uncle, Bob Dunzelman
BY CHUCK O’DONNELL Correspondent

OLD BRIDGE — It started off with a flicker of imagination and a sketch on a scrap of paper. Jim Romer took one look at this funny-looking kid he’d just drawn, named him Bobby after his beloved late uncle, and began to get swept up in a surge of inspiration. The result is “Bobby’s Biggest Bubble,” a new children’s picture book created and self-published by the Old Bridge cartoonist. The full-color, hardcover 24-page book is influenced by some of the tales Romer loved as a kid, from“Where the Wild Things Are” to “Harold and the Purple Crayon” to “The Phantom Tollbooth.”

In the book, Bobby gets a huge crate full of one million Super-Duper-Wubble-Bubble-Really-Gummy-Gumballs. Then chaos ensues. It’s just the kind of story Uncle Bob would have liked, Romer said. In fact, Romer dedicated the book to Bob Dunzelman, who died of leukemia, for showing him “it was possible to live with the fun-loving wonder, playful spirit, and imagination of your childhood throughout your entire life.”

“I did a little sketch of a stubby, little boy, which I instantly named Bobby to honor my uncle,” Romer said. “By doing that, one thing lead to another. I gave the character a cap similar to what my uncle wore. I gave the character my uncle’s creative imagination, especially on the pages where they are doing crazy things with the bubblegum. “And with the title of the book finally in place, the story seemed to come together so easily.”

But getting it published was another story. Romer set out about 20 years ago to make kids’ books, but couldn’t get his foot in the door. When his uncle relapsed after a bone marrow transplant, Romer called it “a dark time.” He took his rejection letters and sketches and put them away.

Eventually he turned to toy designing, and now works as an exclusive creative director for a China-based company that creates many sewn goods, like plush toys, costumes and pet toys.While many of Romer‘s designs can be seen in stores such as Target, Kmart, Petsmart and Walmart, his dream of making kids books never faded. When Romer discovered the growing trend of crowdfunding, using sites such as to appeal directly to potential buyers who make pledges in return for rewards such as copies of the finished book, he realized this was his chance.

Seventy-nine people, many of them complete strangers moved by Romer’s desire to honor his uncle with a fun kid’s tale, donated a total of more than $5,000 through so he could publish “Bobby‘s Biggest Bubble.”

He also got a lot of help from Cindy Santos, his cousin and Uncle Bob’s daughter. A kindergarten teacher, Santos not only helped proofread the book, but prompted Romer to rework parts of the story after she pointed out it would be read out loud, which “tends to need a rhythm and flow,” Romer said.

Plus, Santos’s triplets, Bobbi (who is named after Romer’s uncle), Jase and Andrew, and her students at her Upper Saddle River school, were the first test audiences. “I can tell when I read his book how well he knew my father,” Santos said. “I can see my father in this character over and over again: the way Bobby balances things on his head, his cap, his hand in his pocket on the first page, his tongue out when he’s shooting the marble, the crowbar in his hand, his face when he is trying to first blow up the bubble.”

Making the book and starting on the sequel, “Bobby’s Ginormous Jelly,” brought back a flood of memories and emotions for Romer: the vast Matchbox car collection Uncle Bob kept in his basement. The way he’d always be making something, like an octagon-shaped terrarium. The Christmas mornings he would be on the floor playing with the other children.

The best, Romer said, was the time he and his uncle went to the toy store and bought a Styrofoam rocket jet that launches using air capsules. What Romer didn’t know is that his uncle had bought about a dozen rubber parachute men at the counter. “So you can imagine my surprise when the rocket took off, which was already cool, but then these tiny parachute men started to fall off the rocket and floated safely down to the ground,” Romer said. “I still remember his laugh and joy on his face when that the idea worked.”

“I always knew how many people my dad loved and spent time with and gave attention to, I just never realized the mark he was leaving on all these people — Jim included,” Santos said. “For him to write an entire book with the main character named after my father with my father’s likeness is really an 
honor. My father would be so proud.”
For more information about Romer and his children’s book, “Bobby’s Biggest Bubble,” visit