Ten-year-old Andy Ohman is spending his summer working at the Aksarben City Zoo where his dad is curator. There are rumors the city might close the zoo due to budget cuts. An anonymous donor has given the zoo an antique animal carousel, and Andy’s dad is hopeful it will help boost attendance. Andy’s doubtful that an old kiddie ride will make a difference. He doesn’t see what’s so special about it. But when he takes it for a spin, he unlocks the magic that will help save the zoo.
Please Welcome Kathy Rygg!
- Animal Andy, your latest book, is a fantasy/magical realism novella for tweens. Please tell us a bit about Animal Andy.
ANIMAL ANDY is about a zoo keeper’s son who discovers a magic carousel and must use it to save the zoo animals and the zoo. Each time Andy rides the Magical Menagerie, he turns into a different animal and learns they have very real issues. But this story is more than just about exploring the world of animals; it’s also about a boy trying to find the right balance of independence, as so many ten-year-olds do, and about kids learning to listen to their instincts—that little voice that tells you when it’s important to act on something.
2. What inspired you to write this story?
My children loved the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborn, and I wanted to write a book that would transport kids to another world—the world of animals! Our city zoo has a beautiful menagerie carousel and during a visit there, I decided a carousel would be the perfect magical device.
3. Andy, it seems, is a very strong-willed young man. What other words would you use to describe him?
Andy is used to getting what he wants, and at the beginning of the book he’s struggling with changes. His dad has more responsibilities at work and isn’t as accessible to Andy. But Andy is also a compassionate person, which is why the carousel “chooses” him to help the animals and the zoo. With independence comes responsibility, and Andy really exemplifies that.
4. As a writer, you have done work in both marketing and journalism. When it comes to fiction, however, middle grade stories seem to be your specialty. What do you love about reading and writing middle grade fiction?
I think it has something to do with my own fond memories of being 10, 11, and 12 years old. At that age, you still get to be a kid—believing in “magic” is even accepted! But you’re also learning about independence. Also, relationships aren’t as complicated as they are during the teenage years. I’ve tried writing YA and it just doesn’t come as naturally to me as the middle grade genre does.
5. Who are some of your favorite middle grade writers?
Growing up, my favorites were Beverly Clearly (I had every single one of her books on my shelf) and Mary Norton who wrote “The Borrowers” series. I was also a huge Harry Potter fan. Recently, I’ve read some very good middle grade novels by self-published authors, including Sybil Nelson’s “Priscilla the Great” series and Catherine Cooper’s “The Golden Acorn” series.
6. When did you decide you wanted to write fiction?
I’ve been writing short stories as long as I can remember, but I didn’t start writing children’s fiction until after I had kids. I re-read many of my childhood favorites and decided to give it a try. I was hooked!
7. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
The best piece of advice I’ve received and truly believe in is to read as many books as possible in the genre you write. Study your favorites and try to determine what it is about them you like, then practice that in your own writing.
8. What, if you don't mind sharing, is your latest project?
I recently finished the first book in a middle grade adventure series that involves the sport of geocaching, and I’m currently writing the sequel to my children’s chapter book “Tall Tales with Mr. K” which is about an eccentric third-grade teacher who takes his students on fun-filled adventures in the teacher’s lounge.
ANIMAL ANDY is published by Muse It Up Publishing. The ebook is available online at the Muse Bookstore. The print version is available on Amazon.
Kathy Rygg’s blog site is http://ksrwriter.blogspot.com
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