In Conversation: Ron Roy and Kayla Whaley discuss A to Z Animal Mysteries
Kayla: Hi, Ron! I’m so thrilled to be able to talk to you about A to Z Mysteries and its new spin-off, A to Z Animal Mysteries. It’s been an absolute joy to bring this new series to life, while (hopefully!) honoring the original. I won’t lie, I was a bit intimidated when I first found out I’d be working on A to Z Animal Mysteries. Before this, I mostly wrote YA, and I’d honestly never imagined I would write chapter books. But when the opportunity came up to tackle a spin-off based on such a classic in the genre, I knew I had to go for it. So many people grew up adoring your books, so it was important to me to write something that would feel like a return to a beloved world for those fans, as well as a welcoming introduction for new readers. How did you feel about the idea of a spin-off series?
Ron: I could not be more thrilled that the series goes on with new characters and new stories.
While teaching second and third grades, I realized that many of my students did not love reading for pleasure. That knowledge made me even more determined to make reading a fun and anticipated part of each school day. My students began to look forward to our DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) times. When my writing adventure began, my goal was to create stories and characters that would appeal to reluctant readers. I also aimed at themes that would be fun for parents to read. I felt then as I do now—if parents read, kids will read. And when parents and kids read the same books, magic happens!
Twenty-five years ago, my first A to Z Mysteries title came out—The Absent Author, followed by The Bald Bandit and The Canary Caper. I felt honored when the reviews came in from teachers, parents, and young readers, all loving the three main characters because they were smart, kind, and funny. And they loved the stories because the plots made them think. Parents were grateful that the main characters—Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose—weren’t sarcastic to each other and didn’t resort to violence or bad words as they sought to solve mysteries and catch bad guys.
Kayla, I am delighted with your perspective and your new take on this exciting spin-off. I am 100 percent certain that a new batch of young readers is going to devour your stories and characters in A to Z Animal Mysteries. Thank you so much for taking the original A to Z concept and carrying it forward. My A to Z journey has been amazing, and your contribution is going to make it even more memorable. Welcome aboard!
Kayla: That’s such a relief to hear! It was a goal of mine to maintain that wide appeal you mentioned. I also really wanted to keep a focus on friendship. Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose have such an endearing dynamic. I tried to make sure that same warmth, caring, and support were present in this series’s friend group (Abbi, Lydia, and Daniel) as well.
Abbi, of course, comes from the original A to Z Mysteries series. Writing her was one of my greatest joys. Since she was only a guest star in the originals, there was a lot of room for me to explore her character. For instance, the fact that she collects animal sounds is such a cool detail on its own, but it also helped inform the clues and mysteries of the first few A to Z Animal Mysteries books. So that was super fun to play with!
I’m curious how your approach to the series changed over time—if at all! Did you find new challenges to navigate? Or did you find certain aspects more enjoyable than others to write?
Ron: As I wrote more titles for A to Z Mysteries, I focused on my three main characters in more depth: Josh loves to draw and hopes to be an illustrator someday. Dink is a big reader and will write his own books. Ruth Rose is smart and sassy and brave and aspires to the presidency. All three love animals: Dink has Loretta, a guinea pig; Josh has Pal, his basset hound, and Polly, his pony; and Ruth Rose has Tiger, her cat.
I would be thrilled if you felt like bringing these characters into some of your future stories, Kayla, alongside Abbi, Lydia, and Daniel.
Kayla: Oh my gosh, I would absolutely love to have them join! That would be such an honor for me—and so much fun, too. Imagine the hijinks all six of them could get up to together! And that’s an excellent point about how a love for animals has always been present in the series. Yes, these books are about solving mysteries and escaping danger and saving the day, but that’s only part of it. They’re also about friendship and laughter, curiosity, and the drive to help others—believing you can help others. That warmth at the core is the biggest thing I hope to carry forward.
Thank you for trusting me to steward this series for the next generation. Here’s to the next mystery and every one after that!
Meet the authors
RON ROY created the original A to Z Mysteries series, which has been inspiring young readers, writers, and amateur sleuths for generations.
KAYLA WHALEY is the author of the A to Z Animal Mysteries series. Besides children’s books, she has also written fiction and nonfiction for teens and adults. When not writing, she likes playing video games, listening to music (especially K-pop!), and watching TV shows with friends.
About A to Z Animal Mysteries #1: The Absent Alpacas by Ron Roy, Kayla Whaley, Chloe Burgett (Illustrator)
Solve Animal Mysteries from A to Z! Young clue hunters Abbi, Daniel, and Lydia sniff out the mystery behind a group of missing alpacas. Inspired by Ron Roy’s beloved A to Z Mysteries series, this spin-off is perfect for budding young chapter-book readers—and future detectives!
A is for ALPACAS . . .
It’s time for the alpaca costume contest, and Abigail “Abbi” Wallace is excited to see it at the Maine State Fair. But there’s only one alpaca left—the rest are missing! What sent the alpacas packing? Abbi; her dog, Barkley; and her friends Lydia and Daniel are ready to sniff out this mystery!
DON’T MISS the original A to Z Mysteries series by Ron Roy, starting with The Absent Author!
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 07/04/2023
Series: A to Z Animal Mysteries: A Stepping Stone Book (TM) #1
Age Range: 6 – 9 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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