A Shining welcome to author Kathy Sattem Rygg, whose delightful Middle Grade Fantasy, Animal Andy. is guaranteed to amuse readers of all ages.
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.
What a wonderful story idea, Kathy. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University, worked for the McGraw-Hill Companies’ business publications division in New York City. I was the Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, Colorado, and currently live in Omaha with my husband and two children.What sparked your interest in writing?
I wrote my first short story when I was five years old and wrote my first "book" when I was seven years old. I’ve been writing in some form my entire life!.What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
I appreciate creativity above all else. I also value strong writing skills—the ability to make sentences so effortless, you forget you’re reading words on a page.How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
I write magical realism—I love taking real-life events and adding a bit of mystery/magic. These are the kinds of books I loved as a child and the kind of books I enjoy writing for children today.Do you set your books/stories in your home town, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
I always have my stories take place in locations I’m familiar with, which aren’t necessarily exotic, but I think they give the story a sense of authenticity.How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
I believe in writing what you know! I tend to take people/events and mix them up to create the characters and plots in my books. Those who have influenced you most in life (good or bad) make great characters!.What inspired you to write Animal Andy?
My kids were enthralled with The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborn, and I wanted to write a magical realism story that could transport kids to another world—the world of animals! Our city’s zoo has a beautiful menagerie carousel, and it was during a zoo outing with my kids that I decided a carousel would be the perfect device—each time Andy rides the carousel at the zoo, he turns into whichever animal he was riding at the time.That sounds so imaginative. Was there much research involved?
I interviewed zoo keepers to get behind-the-scenes information, learn about animal behavior, and discover some pretty funny things that animals do. The information was critical to developing the key plots points in Animal Andy.Do you have a set writing routine?
I’m not a morning person, so late afternoon tends to be my most productive writing time. Once I’ve gotten the kids settled after school, I can usually get about an hour of writing in before dinner.Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
Growing up, one of my favorite book series was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I loved the creativity of little people living in the walls who borrowed household objects. To this day, whenever I misplace an item, I always say, "The Borrowers must have taken it!"What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
I also loved the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. In fact, my children’s chapter book, Tall Tales with Mr. K, is my modern-day version of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I love the premise of an eccentric, magical mentor who helps children with common problems using fun, quirky, "adventurous" methods.
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 magical adventures in the teacher’s lounge. I’m also in the finishing stages of a middle grade fantasy series that incorporates the sport of geocaching.I suspect your readers will be educated as well as entertained. So, how about entertaining us with an excerpt from Animal Andy!
* * * * *Excerpt:
Andy’s knees wobbled and buckled as he stumbled off the carousel’s platform. He thrust forward, collapsing into a heap on the ground. Shaking his head a few times, he flinched when a snort escaped his mouth.
A flash of turquoise caught his eye. He scrambled up as a skinny-necked bird with short legs and a long, plump body strutted over. It stopped a few inches away and let out an ear-splitting squawk. Only a peacock could make that sound.
"What are you doing over here?" the bird asked. "Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know this is the kind of thing that gets all of us into trouble?"
Andy froze. He was sure the peacock had just spoken to him.
"Well, don’t just sit there, zebra, we need to get you back to the pen," the bird snapped.
Andy whipped his head from side to side. Nobody was around, and he didn’t see a zebra.
"Did you just talk?"
"Don't get all high and mighty on me," the peacock said. "It's socially acceptable for a peacock to speak to a zebra."
"Why do you keep calling me a zebra?" Andy narrowed his eyes at the bird.
"Well, I don’t see any other escaped animal standing in front of me," the peacock said. Andy lowered his gaze and saw four black and white striped legs beneath him. He craned his neck and saw a thin, black tail swishing behind him. Puzzled, he glanced at the carousel and saw an empty brass pole where the zebra had been.
He stumbled backward. "No, no, no," he said, shaking his head. "How…it can’t be," he breathed.
"There’s just no way. I…I…I’m a zebra!"
* * * * *About Kathy Sattem Rygg:
Kathy Sattem Rygg is Editor-in-Chief for the children’s online magazine Knowonder! and an active member of SCBWI. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and has worked for the McGraw-Hill Companies’ business publications division in New York City. She was also the editor-in-chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO. She currently lives in Omaha, NE, with her husband and two children.
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Animal Andy / Available from