Cathy and Steve Stahn, from Sterling Heights, pose with their children’s books that depict the adventures of Nor-Nor the bunny and Ruffy the dog.

Cathy and Steve Stahn, from Sterling Heights, pose with their children’s books that depict the adventures of Nor-Nor the bunny and Ruffy the dog.

Photos by Deb Jacques


Couple brings plush toys to life through children’s books

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 7, 2020

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STERLING HEIGHTS — After years of dreaming and months of work, a Sterling Heights couple is having their big day as children’s book authors.

Cathy and Steve Stahn recently authored the Big Day Out children’s book series. The five-book series follows Nor-Nor the bunny and Ruffy the dog as they visit a pirate treasure island, a farm, a safari zoo, an aquarium and outer space.

According to Cathy Stahn, the stories’ origins hearken back to her childhood in Australia several decades ago. Nor-Nor and Ruffy are based on two plush animals.

“We had two beautiful stuffed toys,” she said. “My twin sister, hers was a dog. She used to carry it around over her shoulder. I used to carry the rabbit. We used to play, of course.”

But she didn’t get a chance to tell her tales until decades later. Cathy said she was 47 and living in Australia as a receptionist when she met Steve, who was working at General Motors. They struck up a friendship, and they soon they fell in love and got married in Las Vegas.

“It’s never too late to get married and find the love of your life,” Cathy said.

“What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but I followed her home,” Steve Stahn said.

Steve said his wife was talking for years and years about making Nor-Nor and Ruffy stories. But the idea got postponed when Cathy got thyroid cancer around four years ago. Her successful radiation treatment and recovery motivated the Stahns to bring their vision to life.

“If I don’t sit down and write something, I’m going to burst,” Cathy recalled. “We both sat down and started to write and sketch for the next two weeks.”

They established a company, Big Day Out LLC, and started work on the books in July 2018. It ended up taking seven months of daily work to finish the books, they said. They added that everything in the books is hand-drawn and hand-colored.  

The Stahns said they tried to submit the books to publishers in 2019, but they reportedly said they weren’t accepting any applications at the time. So the couple decided to get the books printed locally.

“They were able to do it exactly the way we wanted it printed,” Cathy said. “The colors came out pretty good.”

She said they were able to release the books and a song-and-dance video just before the coronavirus-related lockdown happened in Michigan. They even arranged to have costumes designed so that the Nor-Nor and Ruffy characters could dance to a song in the video.

While she said the coronavirus pandemic put a bit of a damper on marketing, the Stahns are continuing their dream undaunted.

Cathy said she has had excellent feedback from readers, adding that “even older children really like it.” She said each of the books contains sheet music that incorporates a song, “Big Day Out,” with the stories.

She said her idea to include songs and dances with the series is inspired by Christmastime pantomime productions in Australia and England. Such productions are usually based on “fairy tales with a funny twist,” she said.

Cathy said she is also planning to make more books for Nor-Nor and Ruffy’s adventures.  

“For each of the books that we’ve done, they’ll have a spinoff,” she said. “I’ve got adventure stories written.”

Learn more about Big Day Out LLC and its books by visiting nornor-ruffy.com.

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