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Posted: September 17, 2013 9:11 p.m.

Book brings zoo to life

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Alligators, monkeys and other zoo creatures are true party animals in a new children’s book written by an Eastside High School graduate and her husband.

Grace Millsaps and husband Ryan Murphy have written "What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo." The couple made a stop in Covington Friday to read their published work to children.

Millsaps said the book, full of colorful illustrations by John Clark IV and Alyson Kilday, is a story about lazy zoo animals that are lazier than children expect because the critters have been up all night making music, dancing, playing games, and having carnival-style parties.

Millsaps is an early childhood educator at Isidore Newman School and the Saint Charles Avenue Presbyterian Nursery School in New Orleans. That job "was kind of the entry into children’s book writing," Millsaps said. "I’ve always liked to write at school, and I’d taken classes in college."

Co-authors Millsaps and Murphy began their relationship teaching in the northern Chinese city of Harbin. Millsaps, who graduated from Eastside in 2005, has also spent time in Italy and Turkey. She graduated from Emory University with a major in anthropology.

Murphy, who has lived in Atlanta, Boston and Shanghai, is an attorney, writer, comedian and tour guide. He graduated from the University of Georgia

They crossed paths again in Boston, where Ryan attended the Boston University School of Law, and shortly thereafter moved to New Orleans in 2011.

While in New Orleans, the couple met John Clark IV and Alyson Kilday at an event for people interested in technology and social entrepreneurship. They formed a friendship based on their traveling experiences and love for the city of New Orleans.

"The Zoo Krewe," as they call themselves, often met at the Audubon Park to hang out, and eventually brought their passions for writing and illustrating to life.

The team’s book won "Best New Orleans Children’s Book" at the 2012 New Orleans Children’s Book Festival, and has received rave reviews from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who endorsed the book on social networks, Facebook and Twitter.

Only in Georgia for a few days, Millsaps said she and Ryan made a special trip to Mansfield Elementary School, where she read to students.

"I definitely wanted to read at Mansfield Elementary School, because it’s where I went to school," she said. "It was very nice to go back and tell the kids, ‘Oh, I used to go to school here, and now I’m an author and you can do that, too. And a lot of my teachers that I had came back to see me."

After the reading at the school, the couple headed to the Covington square to set up a display of books and posters outside of Scoops ice cream shop for a book signing. While there, Millsaps mom, Cynthia Millsaps, shared how happy she is for her daughter and son-in-law.

"It’s exciting, and I’m very proud of her and I’m proud of Ryan," Cynthia said. "I think they are doing a wonderful job with making a creative life and doing things for kids."

Millsaps said, "What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo," can be purchased online at thesleepyanimals.com. She said there are more projects to come.

"Ryan and I have a couple of other things written, at least one thing that someone else is illustrating right now," Millsaps said.  "So we have plans for a sequel with this book with the same illustrators."

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