Have you ever wondered why the animals are asleep when you go to the zoo?
Maybe it’s because they have been up all night partying.
That’s how Grace Millsaps and Ryan Murphy describe nights at the New Orleans’ zoo in an imaginative children’s book, “What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo.”
The book contains more than 200 colorful animal illustrations by 30-year-old John Clark IV, and Alyson Kilday, 29, who founded the New Orleans graphic design firm HOP & JAUNT during a yearlong sabbatical sailing through the Caribbean and off South America.
Millsaps, 26, who wrote the book with Murphy, her husband, now works as an early childhood educator at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. Murphy, 28, has a law degree from Boston College, but he never actually practiced law. He mainly works as a tour guide in the French Quarter.
In her work with children, Millsaps reads lots of children’s books and always wanted to write one. Murphy came up with the idea, which, while on a picnic, they mentioned to Clark and Kilday.
“I always wanted to illustrate a children’s book,” Clark said.
The story is simple. Little Renee goes to the Audubon Zoo with her father.
“She does the classic New Orleans things like climbing Monkey Hill and eating Roman candy, things I remember doing as a kid,” Murphy said.
But it’s hot, and all of the animals are lethargic.
“If you watch a lot of Animal Planet or Shark Week, you expect to see exciting behavior from each animal,” Millsaps said. “But Renee is disappointed because the animals are asleep.”
Her father makes up an elaborate story explaining how the animals are tired from gallivanting the night before.
He describes a fantastic animal party with a band, dancing, swimming, a costume contest and a feast catered by the pelicans and served from their big beaks.
The story seems unbelievable, but it ends when an old chimp gives Renee a wink as he tunes his guitar, perhaps to get ready for the coming night of partying.
The book has done extremely well. “We sold over a thousand in three weeks,” Kilday said.
A portion of the proceeds benefits the elephant sanctuary at the Audubon Zoo.
Many of the books have been sold at the Audubon Zoo or from a used Ford Explorer that has traveled more than 250,000 miles. The team bought the car and had it painted green.
“The paint job cost more than the car,” Murphy said.
The book was self-published and financed through crowd funding, which allows you to “harness the power of groups of people on the Internet to get resources for creative projects,” Kilday said.
The goal for the book was $5,000, but they actually raised $8,000 by the end of their 30 days. That covered the first printing. The book is selling so well that the second printing of 5,000 books is already paid for and in the works.
The book is dedicated to family, friends and New Orleans.
“We were inspired by the city and wanted to do something special for it,” Murphy said.