Read an Exclusive Interview with the Coauthors of the Animorphs Series
by Alana Pedalino
Did you know that the Animorphs series was written by the dynamic husband-and-wife duo of Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant?
We were thrilled to ask both of them some questions to celebrate Scholastic Book Clubs’ Book of the Week, The Invasion, the first installment in the Animorphs series.
Share this fun Scholastic Book Clubs–exclusive interview with your students to find out what Katherine and Michael think about working together, which authors inspire them, and which animals they would each morph into if they could.
Did you have a favorite research experience while writing the series?
Most of our research was done with books and video, but we also visited zoos: Sometimes there’s no substitute for seeing something with your own eyes. Michael once visited a pretty lousy zoo overseas. They had a jaguar in a too-small cage. He would pace back and forth, eyeballing the crowd, then fire a stream of urine and enjoy the reaction. Then he’d pace while waiting for the next sucker.
Can you tell us more about what it’s like to collaborate on the books?
Well, we are a married couple, so it just became a part of our domestic life. We’d have the same kind of squabbles we might over housework. “Seriously, that’s how you ended that chapter? How am I supposed to pick that up?” More or less the same as, “How can you possibly believe that’s the way to load a dishwasher?”
If you were on the cover of one of the books with morphing artwork, which animal would you want to morph into and why?
Michael: Eagle, no question. Flying would be the thing for me.
Katherine: Dog. They’re relentless optimists.
How do you navigate writing about serious topics (such as war) while connecting with a wide age range of kids?
By not really thinking about it that way. We never sat down to write thinking, “Let us now share our wisdom.” The goal was always to entertain. Part of entertaining can be giving readers some meat and veggies along with the pie and cookies.
When you wrote The Invasion, had you already decided that it was going to be a series? If so, how far along had you plotted it? And if not, when did you decide to write the second book? How did you come to that revelation?
Oh, it was always a series in our minds. We wanted to be R. L. Stine.
There are a lot of moral riddles in your stories. What life lessons are you hoping that students get out of these books?
We didn’t want to teach or preach or deliver life lessons. A central part of our approach to writing is that we never take ourselves seriously. That’s Rule #1 for us as writers: Don’t get above yourselves, don’t start believing your own hype, don’t act in loco parentis, just entertain in an interesting way.
We wanted to invent interesting characters, characters with strengths and weaknesses, with nuance. We want to write interesting stories, and part of “interesting” necessarily includes issues and ideas that transcend the specific plot. It has never been about teaching—we aren’t qualified to do that. We presented situations which often had moral implications readers were free to examine. We always tried to present more than one side. It wasn’t our job to offer conclusions, it was our job to present interesting food for thought.
We trusted the readers. They didn’t need us shoving our brilliant insights down their throats. If they were reading Animorphs, they were smart kids. They could figure things out for themselves.
Katherine Applegate is the award-winning, New York Times–bestselling author of numerous books for young readers, including the Animorphs and the Roscoe Riley Rules series, The One and Only Ivan (Newbery Medal) and its sequel The One and Only Bob, Wishtree, Crenshaw, and Home of the Brave.
Michael Grant is the New York Times–bestselling author of numerous books in addition to the Animorphs series, including several multi-book series, Gone, Front Lines, Monster, Messenger of Fear, and BZRK.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs