Jimmy the Giraffe, Bobo the Mouse, Ricky the Rabbit, Terry the Turtle, Freddie the Fish and a host of animals rescued from various perils or simply ready for a peaceful retirement live at Rescue Ranch, an imaginary farm created in the mind of local children’s book author Mark Albini.
With a dream to see his books featured as a children’s program, Mark Albini has self-published three of the 16 rhyming animal adventure books he has written to date all with a setting at the fictional Rescue Ranch. His fourth book will be available in April.
Each book shares a lesson or moral while providing young readers with a great adventure.
In his first published work, “Jimmy the Giraffe,” children learn why it is important to be happy with who they are. In the story, Jimmy skips school because he has dirt on his long neck and cannot reach it to get clean. He decides he would rather be a horse and not have such a long neck but by the end of the story, Jimmy is unhappy with his decision to be something he is not.
On the last page of the colorfully illustrated book, the reader learns, “Becoming a horse or pretending to be led Jimmy to think, ‘I’d just rather be me.’”
“Basically the story shows that the grass is not always greener on the other side and that you should be comfortable in your own skin,” Albini said of the book’s moral.
Albini said most of his books, all but two so far, offer the young reader a moral. The others are “pure adventure with simple advice and a show of manners.” The writer also introduces new characters in each book who become part of the story moving forward. Each character takes its place on a map of Rescue Ranch in the front of each new book.
The children’s book series has evolved from the imagination of the Myrtle Beach real estate broker who says he had “no plan to become a writer.”
“I was helping out a starving artist,” Albini said during a recent interview. The plan was for the artist to do the artwork and he would write the text. However, things did not quite work out that way.
Albini said after being inspired to tackle the task, he wrote four books in one week. The artist, however, changed her mind after one week and then moved away with her husband a short time later. Albini found creative help to make his stories come to life through Simon & Schuster’s self-publishing arm, Archway Publishing.
Inspired by his love of animals
In part, Albini’s animal tales were inspired by his years of observing wildlife while growing up in New Jersey.
“I grew up next to a brook teaming with wildlife,” Albini said. “My entire life I have been observing animal behavior.”
As a youngster, Abini said he would be up early and out the door to watch where the rabbits were nesting or feeding their young. He would catch gold carp (similar to gold fish) in his hand and trade them at the pet shop.
“I always had a love of nature,” he said. “I am just an animal lover. I kept every animal my parents would let me keep--ducks, rabbits, lizards. When I went off to college, I got Roscoe the cat. He was a gigantic angora with long legs and acted like a dog. He walked alongside me and was the friendliest cat in the world.”
Albini said for each animal character he creates, he tries to become that character.
“I try to see the story through the character’s eyes. It’s hard to crawl into each character, to think of yourself as that animal and wonder ‘what are your thoughts?’”
While Albini had never considered becoming an author, his dad, Louis Albini, wrote textbooks in Spanish. Albini learned the language as well while living with his parents, both Spanish instructors in Machu Picchu, Peru, where they met and then in the state of New Jersey.
Albini had also had an astrological reading once that predicted he would buy a house and become a writer and publisher.
“I forgot all about the reading until about a year ago when I came across it,” he said. He had fulfilled part of the prediction when he became one of the publishers of Carolina MugShots newspaper, which he no longer owns, and he had purchased a house.
An avid golfer and football fan who has lived in the Myrtle Beach area since 1977, Albini says he does most of his writing while watching a game. The rhyming seems to come easily to him but the hard part, he said, is the editing.
“I thought once I wrote the story I was done,” he said. “But when you write a simple line, you have to think about what kind of picture you want to put with it.”
Albini writes up descriptions based on his vision for each page and sends them off to the artist.
While Mitch the Monkey, Scottie the Skunk, Billy the Bobcat and Sammy the Snake are written phonetically for young readers, the characters are all based on real people.
“All the characters in my books are names of friends or people who came up in my life. It is a way for them to live on,” he said.
The future of Rescue Ranch
The man who admits he did not like to read as a child has a dream to see his work grow beyond books. He has been encouraged by the interest shown by CBS Corp., which owns Simon & Schuster, to enter his books in their competition to become an animated cartoon.
“I’d like to find a big promoter,” he said, mentioning he could envision his characters being picked up by someone like Disney. “I’d love to sit down and get a deal worked out.”
In the meantime, Albini feels confident something good is going to happen with his books. He has been able to get them accepted at some North Carolina libraries and he hopes to get them accepted by schools and other libraries. Some local dentists have picked them up to place in their office waiting areas.
His primary hope is that he can do something good for children. “If I could give them an interest in reading or teach them a life’s lesson, offer advice or even teach them a new word, as a writer I would feel I have done something good,” Albini said.
You can find “Jimmy the Giraffe,” “Ricky and Bobo” and “Terry and Freddie” on Amazon, Archway Publishing or learn more about the book series at www.RescueRanchBookSeries.com. Albini hopes to get the rest of his books published in the future as time and money allow.
Freelance writer Angela Nicholas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.