39 pages 1 hour read

Wendy Mass, Rebecca Stead


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide


Bob is a middle-grade novel that blends realistic fiction and fantasy to tell the story of Livy, a 10-year-old American girl visiting her grandmother in Australia, and Bob, a green creature Livy finds awaiting her in a bedroom closet. Livy must fulfill the promise she made to Bob five years previously to help him return to his home. However, Livy has no memory of Bob, no knowledge of who (or what) he is, and no way to determine where his home is. The novel addresses the power of friendship and familial times, the importance of memory, as well as the power of identity.

The novel is co-written by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead and structured in alternating narrations; Stead authored the chapters narrated by Livy and Mass those narrated by Bob. Both authors are prolific writers. Mass has authored 29 books for young readers. Her numerous awards include the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, the Great Lakes Book Award, and awards from 11 states. Stead is the author of five previous books. Stead’s notable awards include a Newberry Medal in 2010, a Guardian Prize in 2013, and the New York Times Notable Book for Children Award.

This guide refers to the 2018 hardcover edition by Macmillian Publishing Group.

Plot Summary

Ten-year-old Livy travels from Massachusetts with her mother and baby sister to visit her grandmother in Australia. Though Livy visited her grandmother’s home five years prior, she cannot remember the trip nor details about her grandmother’s house. She has a vague sense of something significant happening on that visit, but it is not until she finds a small, green creature in a bedroom closet that she begins to piece together the details of her last visit.

The green creature, named Bob, wears a chicken suit and insists Livy promised to help him return to his home. Bob has been waiting for Livy to return to him since she departed five years ago. However, Livy has no memory of Bob nor the promise she made to him. Together, they set out to discover who Bob is and how he might return to his home by piecing together important details from Livy’s previous trip. An exploration of Gran’s chicken coop helps Bob to remember that Livy was wet when he met her there, and this wetness, coupled with the warnings Gran has given to Livy to avoid the property’s well, lead Livy to hypothesize that Bob saved her after she fell into the well.

As Bob and Livy become reacquainted—playing chess as they did when Livy was five—Livy’s mother prepares to leave Livy in Gran’s care as she heads off on a visit to friends. Livy meets Gran’s neighbor and the neighbor’s daughter, who operates the town’s restaurant, and her children, Danny and Sarah. Gran’s town suffers from a drought, and her neighbor is at risk of losing his farm because of it. A letter Gran receives from the bank hints at the likelihood that Gran faces the same predicament. Danny is worried by this possibility, as Bob discovers him crying at the well one day.

Sarah attempts to rekindle her friendship with Livy while Livy maintains focus on her promise to Bob. Sarah’s memory of Livy’s first visit, however, is much more complete than Livy’s. Indeed, when Livy is away from Bob, she instantly forgets him. A chess piece—a black pawn that is chipped—causes her to remember him when Livy touches it. She is certain the pawn is a magic talisman.

Sarah informs Livy of her assembling a time capsule on her last visit. It is the contents of this time capsule—a photograph depicting five-year-old Livy reading a book titled Fairy and Folk Tales From A to Z—that provides the key to the mystery of Bob’s existence. The information in the book, coupled with a drawing of a well and a creature resembling Bob that Danny has drawn, help Livy and Bob locate the well that Bob escaped from. Bob, they discover, is a well dweller who travels in tunnels between wells. His presence ensures that rain falls, and Bob’s absence—having been lured from the well by the temptation of human food—is responsible for the drought. Livy and Bob find Danny at the well while searching for Danny, who had gone missing while attempting to give Bob’s mother a cupcake to restore the rain. Instead, Bob’s mother snatches Bob up, and they disappear into the well. Bob’s mother seizes the black pawn from Livy so that she will not remember Bob once he has returned to his home.

While Livy sleeps that night, Bob sneaks out of the well and returns the black pawn to her, hopeful that she will find it and not forget him.