by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
Can you imagine being at the publishing meeting when J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings was first presented and published?
How about when Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel created The Cat in the Hat and changed forever the way young children learn to read?
Or…when a book about five kids who meet an alien who gives them the power to morph into any animal they want came to Scholastic’s publishing acquisition meeting?
I wasn’t working in publishing when Tolkien published The Hobbit or when Ted Geisel took up the challenge to write an engaging book for first graders that they couldn’t put down (with only 236 words!). But I was definitely there in person when then–Editor in Chief of Scholastic, Jean Feiwel, brought Animorphs: The Invasion into the room and a new era of thrilling middle grade series publishing was launched!
More than two decades ago, in 1996, The Invasion by K. A. Applegate—the pseudonym of Katherine Applegate and her husband, Michael Grant—was published. Just like other huge paperback series published by Scholastic under Jean’s editorial direction (Goosebumps and the Baby-Sitters Club, to name just two!), Animorphs roared onto the bestseller lists. I don’t have to tell you it was also an instant Book Club success!
Within a year and a half of Animorphs being published, the series had nearly 10 million copies in print—the best “initial sell-in” of any Scholastic series up to that point!
The other cool thing about Animorphs is that, like many great kids’ book publishing sensations, it is a series. So when readers get hooked on the first book, they can keep coming back for more! Today, there are more than 54 titles in the original Animorphs series.
It has been translated into more than 25 languages.
Animorphs has even been adapted into a toy line, a TV series on Nickelodeon, and several video games!
And this week, on October 6, 2020—24 years after Animorphs was born and began morphing all kinds of kids into voracious readers—The Invasion is being reimagined as a graphic novel by Eisner Award–nominated artist Chris Grine.
I am thrilled to be at Scholastic when once again such incredible publishing news is made. The graphic-novel version will be published to reach even more kids and adults—and the kids of adults who were the original readers when this all started.
The power of a hit series is truly awesome. Katherine and Michael describe in their Behind the Scenes interview how they don’t try to “teach” in their books. They want to entertain. And it’s important for all of us to take heed of their words and to understand that to entertain is not the opposite of being substantive or meaningful. When authors build a world with characters who have depth and are relatable, the “teachable moments” come naturally—as they do in real life.
I started thinking about morphing into animals after reading our exciting, kid-favorite Book of the Week: The Invasion, the first installment of the middle grade fantasy series Animorphs by K. A. Applegate.
To tie in with the publication of the new graphic novel and to celebrate the vast popularity of Animorphs, I am thrilled that we are featuring the first book in the series on our blog as the Book of the Week so that today’s kids can have access to this truly captivating reading experience.
“There’s clearly something about Animorphs that has kept kids enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly
In The Invasion, five regular kids—Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Tobias, and Marco—find a crashed spaceship at a construction site. They unwittingly touch something inside that gives them all the alien ability to morph into any animal they choose.
My friend and colleague David Vozar was also at the publishing table in 1996 when Animorphs was first acquired. We have been working on sharing this series with teachers and kids through Scholastic Book Clubs since that very first day.
So it was only natural after reading Katherine and Michael’s interview—Katherine would morph into a dog and Michael would choose to become an eagle—that David and I would start thinking about what animal we would choose to morph into if we were characters in the series. I love how David envisions himself in his morphed states:
If I were an Animorph, I would choose to morph into a giraffe. To me, giraffes are so interesting and magnificent. They have beautiful long necks and legs (did you know that giraffes have 7 neck vertebrae, the same number as humans?!); they can run so fast (35 miles an hour); they only need to drink every few days; and they function so well on 5 to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period. Amazing! Honestly, I would be happy with all of those qualities—I am so jealous!
I hope you and your students are inspired by The Invasion and join the millions of readers who are thrilled and entertained by Animorphs. To help ignite the reading magic that comes with introducing students to this series, we created several videos and posts this week for you to use:
• Max sits out of the Book Boys taping this week (can you guess why?) and Mariam, a coworker at Scholastic, fills in with infectious enthusiasm after reading The Invasion for the first time.
• Third grade teacher Adam King explores different ways to connect The Invasion to science, animals, and creative writing lessons in Book Talks.
• Here’s a suggested writing activity in Cooked Up from a Book to get students’ creative process flowing.
• Please don’t miss this! Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant gave us an exclusive interview in Behind the Scenes. As you know, I bragged about being in the publishing meeting when Animorphs was first being considered for publication, but even I learned some new tidbits from this very cool interview. Wow!
The power of an entertaining book series is truly awe-inspiring. We’re excited to introduce—or reacquaint—readers of all ages with Animorphs—one of the best and most successful series in kids’ publishing.
These days, many of us probably do want to morph into another creature. If you feel like sharing your choice, please send me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d truly love to hear from you.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs