You might know Katherine, or K.A., Applegate from the popular young adult series Animorphs, which she co-wrote with her husband Michael Grant. Its 1996 launch would eventually generate 54 books and a Nickelodeon series. There are now more than 35 million copies in print worldwide.
More recently, her 2012 book “The One and Only Ivan” was made into a 2020 Disney film starring Brian Cranston, Sam Rockwell and Angelina Jolie.
The Newberry Medal-winning and New York Times bestselling children’s author, whose works have captured the hearts and minds of young readers through stories based on the epic tales of real animals, recently made a stop here in D.C.
She spoke to Washington FAMILY during her book tour to discuss her latest animal-centric tale, “Odder.”
What is the moral of the story? What can children learn from it?
At its heart, “Odder” is a tale of friendship and forgiveness. But it’s also a story about the amazing conservation work being done by many people to save a charming and remarkable endangered species, the southern sea otter.
I believe that each reader should decide what a story means, because we all bring different hopes and needs to our experience of a book. But I do hope that children come away from reading “Odder” both charmed by this fascinating animal and anxious to help endangered species thrive.
A reader told me the other day that “Odder” will spawn a whole new generation of marine biologists. And that, of course, would be pretty great. But more than anything, I hope it sparks curiosity and wonder about the natural world in young readers.
What age group is this book intended for?
“Odder” is considered a middle-grade book, but I’ve found that younger readers and older ones also love the story.
What was your inspiration for the story?
As I did with another novel of mine, “The One and Only Ivan”, I’ve taken the true stories of real animals and tried to bring them to life. Not only will kids thrill to Odder’s encounter with a great white shark, and her wild antics in the waters of Monterey Bay, California, they’ll learn a great deal about the lives of sea otters, a keystone species that is vital to the health of an entire ecosystem.
I knew I wanted to write “Odder” when I first read about the trailblazing program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium that pairs orphaned sea otters with surrogate mothers.
Macmillan is the publisher of “Odder” (and many of my other books!). They ran two campaigns benefiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
What motivates you as an author?
Writing “Odder” was an absolute joy, especially doing the research, which included spending time with wild otters near Monterey Bay. But the biggest thrill of all for any children’s writer is the moment when a child comes up to you and says, “I loved this book!”
Who did the illustrations for this book?
The cover and interior illustrations are by the brilliant artist Charles Santoso. I’ve been lucky enough to have Charles illustrate two other books of mine as well: “Wishtree” and “Willodeen.”
Charles is a master at bringing animals to life on the page, and he’s really outdone himself with his otter illustrations.
You can find more information about Applegate, upcoming events and her other works at katherineapplegate.com.