Australia Day

 Australia Day 2015 Banner BETA

 

Today’s “Australia Day” where the citizens of the frontier continent celebrate their storied culture and heritage.

 

T.A.A. HQ may be based in the U.S. but we do our best to honor our community of our fantastic fauna lovers all over the world.

 

In celebration, your lit. rat will share some of his favorite things with ties to Australia.

 

While we primarily focus on books, T.A.A. also wants to give needed love to other mediums kids and grown-ups love, such as television and film and here are some Aussie-Centric entertainment picks that your lit. rat thinks are worth your family’s “Screen Time.”

 

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Before the “CGI Revolution” dominated the current world of animation, one of the last gems of the “Old School” stop-motion series was “The Koala Brothers” about a pair of brothers who do what they can to assist their friends in a small rural town in the Australian Outback. First aired in 2003, it’s won many awards in accolades in the U.K. It eventually came to America (more on that below)

 

While I was technically WAY past the target age group when this series first aired (15 to be exact) I was ensnared by its charming animation and slice of life approach which is rare for shows aimed at where there’s usually a heavy academic hook of some kind.

 

While I’m all for shows like “Dinosaur Train” or “The Magic School Bus(based on the iconic book series of the same name)  that weave in science and still engage on an entertainment level, there always need to be shows that are simply fun for their own sake, but have a little more depth than the typical “Saturday Morning Cartoon” fare.

 

Programs like “The Koala Brothers” help round out the “Edutainment” onslaught in a lot of children’s television today.

 

Yes, these shows touch on social skills and working as a team, but rather than do a “Rule of Three” breakdown, it just happens naturally through the story being told. It gives the Similar to shows that don’t have laugh tracks, they let the audience decide what they want to take away without a laugh track or other gimmicks getting between them and the content.

 

I’m not at all saying the direct, pseudo-interactive approach that “Dora the Explorer” or “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” shoot for can’t work, clearly it speaks to countless children across the country (or the world in Dora’s 10+ year history), but I love shows that let the viewers decide what’s funny, and what they want to learn from it.

 

An occasional narrator chiming in does “break the fourth wall” a tiny bit, but you really feel part of the world, without being verbally asked to join in.

 

If you (and your lit. rattlings) love shows like “The Backyardigans“,  “Olivia” (Based on Ian Falconer’s iconic picture book series of the same name)  and “Maggie and The Ferocious Beast(Another modern classic) this series might be up your alley.

 

It used to air in the U.S. on Disney Channel during it’s “Playhouse Disney” morning programming block (this was prior to the “Disney Junior” re-branding back in 2010) and until mid-2014 aired on “Disney Junior The Channel” where I saw it again for the first time in over a decade and it’s still as comforting as I remembered it.

 

Selected episodes were released on DVD a few years back in the U.S., but I’m not sure if they’re still available.

 

If you’re curious, you can see a sample episode!

NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: Part of the intro is cut down for time and one music cue is missing, but otherwise a nice taste until someone brings out a complete series set…

 

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This is one of those movies that can be hit or miss depending on three things-

 

-How much you love dogs. (of course!)

-Dealing with a tiny dash of teen angst.

-And an itsy bit of cheesiness doesn’t bother you.

Meet all the above, than this flick’s for you!

 

 

 GUIDO's GLAM SHOT

 

I dare say my canine pal, Guido (from Guido and Bonnie) would enjoy this movie, too!

 

 

Okay, now let’s talk books! 

 

I only just learned many of my favorite authors were born and/or raised in Australia, and one of them is Gus Gordon, who wrote/illustrated one of my favorite books of 2013, “Herman and Rosie.”

 

Herman and Rosie

Herman and Rosie

by Gus Gordon (@IllustratorGus)

(AU) Publisher: Viking

(An Imprint of Penguin AU)

(U.S.) Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

(An Imprint of Macmillan)

(U.S.) Pub. Date: October 15th, 2013

 

 

Check out my fan book trailer for

“Herman and Rosie”

 

Check Out your lit. rat’s review of  

“Herman and Rosie.”

 

Learn More about Gus, his books, and more at his website: http://www.gusgordon.com 

He’s Also on Facebook!

 

RAJ

Another author with ties to Australia is John Flanagan

best known for his bestselling “Ranger’s Apprentice” series.

 

Graeme Base + AnimaliaOur next author from down under is author-illustrator Graeme Base, whose best known book is “Animalia” which was adapted into an animated television series 

in 2008 by Cyber Group Studios.

Learn more about Graeme, his books, and buy his original artwork at his OFFICIAL website: http://www.graemebase.com

 

 

Shauna Tan + The Arrival

Last, but FAR from least, is author-illustrator, Shauna Tan, best known for his wordless picture book  “The Arrival.”

Learn more about Shaun and his books

at his OFFICIAL website: http://www.shauntan.net

If you, or someone you know lives (or has lived) in Australia, please share your story in the comments below.

 

Also, if you’ve got a favorite book, film, or television series that was filmed in or by or set in Australia, please share in the comments below, too!

For our all T.A.A. fans Down Under, Happy Australia Day!

Until next time, Blokes, may the fantastical fauna be with you.

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Weekly Readings XIV

Weekly Readings 14 (FINAL 2)

 

Welcome to another edition of 

“Weekly Readings”

 

For those new here, Weekly Readings is when your lit. rat reviews books I’ve read here and there.

While T.A.A. focuses on animal stories, we do give humans their due now and again…

 

This week, we’ve got three charming dog tales, and a love story set to the backdrop of a dance-off. Essentially we’re talking “Romeo and Juliet” (minus the death), mixed with “So You Think You Can Dance” meets “Dancing with the Stars(minus the judges for both)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Place for Ted

A Perfect Place for Ted

by Leila Rudge

Publisher: Candlewick Press (@Candlewick)

Pub. Date: June 24th, 2014

 

Ted, like most dogs, wants a home, and after being passed over time and again in the pet store, decides to take matters into his own paws.

 

With only the green jumper* (*Lingo for “Sweater”) on his back, and a dream in his heart, Ted embarks on a quest to find his “Ever After” home!  

 

He tries getting hired by a circus, but doesn’t make the cut, to being a show dog on the pageant circuit, but isn’t able to stand out from the competition. Finally, he takes a stab at being a guard dog, but isn’t assertive enough…

 

Ted starts to wonder if there is a “Perfect Place”

for him to call home…

 

Author-Illustrator Leila Rudge uses a classic watercolor style, warm color palette, and subtle line art to bring Ted’s earnest journey to life.

 

Despite the potential issues of giving someone a real pet for their birthday or the holidays, dog lovers should have no qualms whatsoever gifting “A Perfect Place for Ted” to the pet parents in your life.

 

Check Out Our Fan Book Trailer For

“A Perfect Place For Ted”

 

 

Gaston

Gaston

by KellyDiPucchio (@kellydipucchio)

Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers 

(Imprint of Simon & Schuster

[@SimonKIDS] |[@simonschuster] )

Pub. Date: June 3rd, 2014

 

I LOVE the retro-inspired art style employed by illustrator Christian Robinson, helping stand out from the many hyper-technicolor titles on the book shelf, but speaks to the retro-naunt in me and others.

Kids from adoptive or blended families will find a relatable friend in the titular canine’s story of being comfortable in your own skin (or fur, in his case), even when those closest to you don’t “get it” right away. 

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(Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” – Platinum Edition DVD cover)

It’s hard not to hear the name “Gaston” without thinking about the machismo meat-head from the Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast”, of whom, in my opinion is among the most normal* sleazebag of the varying antagonists from the 90s’ era. 

(*In this context, normal meaning not having powers of some kind)

But happily this Gaston is one I can get behind. 

I’m not going to sing it, but…I want a DOG like Gaston…

 

 

The Driftwood Ball

The Driftwood Ball

by Thomas Docherty

(U.K.) Publisher: Templar Publishing

(U.K.) Pub. Date: January 1st, 2014

 

In addition to collaborating with his wife and fellow author Helen (See our profile on them from our Picture Book Month 2013 author/illustrator spotlight), author-illustrator Thomas Docherty brings us his most recent solo outing about family feuds, high stakes dance offs, and true love, what more can a lit. rat need?

 

On one side you’ve got badgers, who are prim, proper and composed, in dance terms they’re like a waltz. Form and technique are everything!

 

The otters by contrast are cool, casual, and thrive on improvisation, in dance they represent freestyle, with some hip-hop thrown in here and there. Whatever’s fun and flowing!

 

The Badgers find the otters crude and their dancing unrefined.

 

The otters think badgers are snobbish, wound too tight, and their dance moves stiff and soulless.

 

The only thing both species agree on is their love of dancing, but while “The Driftwood Ball” brings the two species together, competition and rivalry keep them apart in every way.

 

Until Celia (an otter) and George (a badger) meet in secret and have different ideas…

 

George likes how free and soulful the otters move,  and Celia’s enchanted by the composed technique of the badgers dancing, and the two soon learn to dance a little bit like the other, until they create a dance style all their own, and fall in love…

 

When titular dance-off “The Driftwood Ball” begins, the feuding species are stunned to find Celia and George dancing together, a first for this bitter rivalry charged event, and from there a new normal takes hold that I won’t spoil here…

 

What I love most about Thomas Docherty is how he tailors his illustration style for each of his books, be they his own, or when visualizing another author’s work.

 

While there some slight nods to the style used in “The Snatchabook” his previous book (written by his wife, Helen) this book is about movement and a more tropical color palette, versus the Seuss-inspired two-tone impressionistic tone taken in the verse-driven tale.

 

T.A.A. nominated this book as one of our first “Most Anticipated Reads” back in 2013 (before it’s release) so you may be wondering why it took a year after it published to review it…

 

The road to reviewing this book is long and complicated, but to give you the abridged version, this book isn’t (YET) out in the U.S., and since T.A.A. HQ is based stateside, your lit. rat didn’t realize that at the time I nominated it this book is still kind of a U.K./Europe exclusive at the time this review is being written…

 

That’s why I want to give special thanks to my Twitter friend, Anne-Marie (@ChildLedChaos), for sending me a copy from the U.K. You made reviewing this book possible.

 

I hope “The Driftwood Ball” comes to the rest of the world soon, but while T.A.A. primarily reviews books that are fairly accessible worldwide, our goal is to be as global community as possible, and while many of Thomas Docherty’s older solo picture books solo books are available worldwide, this sadly remains a U.K. exclusive, but when that changes, T.A.A. will let you know. 

 

That said, for our Euro/U.K. T.A.A. fans, “The Driftwood Ball’s a must-read, especially if you’ve got little movers and groovers in your life!

 

This book earned the honor of being one of our  “Most Anticipated Reads of 2014″, and if you’ve the spare cash and patience for intercontinental shipping, this is a book worth importing!

 

The Snatchabook (U.S. and U.K. Edictions) 3

(U.S./U.K. Covers for “The Snatchabook”)

Also, check out our review of

“The Snatchabook” his previous collaboration with his wife and fellow author Helen.

AbracazebraFinally, keep an eye out for their newest book,”Abracazebra” one of our “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015″ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE (1/21/15): I learned from author Helen Docherty that “Abracazebra” has not yet found a U.S. publisher, so it remains a U.K./Europe exclusive for now, I apologize for the transformation

(I’ll not rely Amazon for release info of international titles again!)

But it’s still one of our “Most Anticipated Reads” and I will still review the book as planned, Helen was kind enough to offer sending us a copy! Thanks Helen! When “Abracazebra” does come stateside, your lit. rat will let you know! But I encourage our U.K. fans to check it out.

 

Mogie - The Heart of the House

Mogie

The Heart of the House

by Kathi Appelt

Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

 Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

(Imprint of Simon & Schuster)

[@simonschuster]  |  [@SimonKIDS]  

Pub. Date: June 10th, 2014

 

Kathi Appelt, while best known for her novels The Underneath and the “The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

(A national Book Award Finalist) she’s also written numerous picture books, and this is the first your lit. rat has read, and definitely NOT the last!

 

The Underneath and The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

Illustrator Marc Rosenthal’s charming illustrations uses minimal background detail to highlight our titular furry friend as he offers a friendly paw to one of the many children who misses the days when he ran free in the great outdoors.

 

On top of being a charming book on it’s own, part of the sales of this book benefits the “Ronald McDonald House” a facility where families with ill and injured children can find a safe haven on their road to recovery, and dogs (like Mogie) are part of the staff as therapy dogs, who in many ways they’re like canine nurses (short of giving shots or cleaning bedpans), offering comfort and a playful distraction from the struggles their young charges face.

 

One last thing,TAA CARES 3

TAA CARES, our initiative to help authors and other content creators in need is gearing up for our first featured project of 2015.

Bestselling author Laura Numeroff

(“If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”) 

is re-launching her wfb_logo_x2Kickstarter campaign for “Work for Biscuits” a book and multimedia series starring andsupporting service dogs in training and in the field.

 

If you can, please consider contributing to her funds the first day to help build momentum so the project can successfully fund the second time around. 

 

 

Even if you can’t spare the cash, please help me and my fantastic fauna team spread the good word, especially if you or the lit. rattlings in your life are Laura Numeroff fans!

If you’re unversed in the concept of crowdfunding, check out my previous posts on the subject as your lit. rat will be embarking this path for my upcoming middle grade novel “GABRIEL

 

The Literary Rat’s Crowdfunding Chronicles – Part 1: Overview

 

The Literary Rat’s Crowdfunding Chronicles – Part 2: Why Crowdfunding?

 

(You can also chat with Gabriel and  his friend Rum on Twitter via @GabrielandRum)

 

That’s it for Weekly Readings, check back next time!

 

 

FINAL NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: If my ramblings convinced you to buy one or more of the books mentioned above, please support T.A.A. by clicking on the affiliate cover images above or links within the review.

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Weekly Readings (T.A.A. CARES 2013 Edition)

TAA CARES 2013 Weekly Readings (FINAL)

 

Welcome one and all to another edition of “Weekly Readings”

 

“Weekly Readings” is a regular feature where your lit. rat reviews various books in the world of fantastical fauna. While T.A.A. focuses on animal stories, humans can and do join in on the fun now and again.

 

The Literary Rat and his team are still on holiday break, so this week we’re reprising our reviews of books that we back during the inaugural year of our T.A.A. CARES initiative. 

 

From High flying dogs, curious cats, and familial love, we’ve got something for everyone!

 

FETCH

 

FETCH

Written by Adam Glendon Sidwell

Illustrated by Edwin Rhemrev

Publisher: Future House Publishing

Pub. Date: May 15th, 2014

Of course, being a dog lover, this book couldn’t escape my radar, this  also has the honor of being the first Kickstarter that your lit rat put up some of his own limited finances, and inspired me to launch our “T.A.A. CARES” initiative to help authors and other creatives achieve their passion projects, and lend a proverbial paw to the word of mouth and when possible, contribute money to ensure they reach the finish line.

TAA CARES 3

 Learn how FETCH came to be-

Now having read the final book I can say without bias that it proved to worth the wait!

 

Like “Chalky and the New Sports Car” this books uses spare but effective text, letting the breaktaking illustrations give you a sense of transcending to a whole other world.

 

Fans of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” will find this world of canine majesty just as full of enchanting possibilities as Equestria, and if anyone from the Hub Network* (*now Discovery Family Daytime) reads this, you may want to snatch up the television rights to this one! (just some friendly advice from The Literary Rat)

This a true love letter to dog lovers everywhere and I’m honored to give it T.A.A.’s Blue Ribbon of Approval-

FETCH (Blue Ribbon Ver.)

 

This is one book that will NEVER leave my private library-

 

TJW FETCH (FINAL 2)

 

Check out my fan book trailer for “FETCH”

Here’s the OFFICIAL trailer for

“FETCH”

 

 

 

Chalky

 

CHALKY AND THE NEW SPORTS CAR

Written by: Stanley Potter

Illustrated by: Jordan Henderson (@taleandteller)

Publisher: Little Thunder Co.

Pub. Date: February 1st, 2014

I got to be honest, I wasn’t always a fan of cats, as I had bad experiences with them in real life, this was long before I took the title of “Literary Rat” but after watching “Oliver and Company” several times in my youth (during the pre-Netflix era)  I slowly started to see the feline world differently…

 

I’m still an unabashed dog fancier, but there may come a day when a lad or lass of the feline persuasion will enter my life, but that’s another story…

While I often lament the “extremist minimalist” movement in picture books these days, this is one book where I don’t mind the spare narrative as it gives the reader and pre-reader lots of room to make the book their own.

The art truly LEAPS off the page, and the spare text does its job while leaving a lot to the imagination. The most apparently noticeable touch for all us wordsmiths or ones in training is the creative use of fonts.

 

GS and Cheese

(If you’re read Jon Scieszka’s “The Stinky Cheese Man” or the “Geronimo Stilton” series you know of what I speak) 

Most books about cats (at least when I was growing up)were stereotypically aimed at girls, and while that persists, this a book that I’m sure girls would love is also something boys would enjoy given Chalky’s rambunctious spirit and physically charged curiosity.

As my feline friend and colleague, Dempsey Woyzeck (of Swinebert & Dempsey) has said when I read him the story-

DEMPSEY POLAROID

 

“For every dog lover who got ‘stuck with a cat’ will find newfound respect and interest in the feline mystique.”

High praise straight from one well-read kitty!

 

(Since he too has a human who still wants a dog, but learned to love cats thanks to Dempsey)

Plus, those of you who LOVE kernels of truth in your reading will be glad to know that titular cat has a real life basis!

 

Learn how “Chalky” came to be,

and meet the REAL Chalky!

 

 

MY Love for You is the Sun

My LOVE for YOU is the SUN

by Julie Hedlund (@JulieFHedlund)

Illustrated by Susan Eaddy

Publisher: Little Bahalia Publishing

Pub. Date: September 9th 2014

 

NOTE from THE LITERARY RAT: I was given a review copy of this book, and aided in its crowdfunding campaign, but am not personally affiliated with either the book’s author, illustrator or publisher, other than sharing fellow respect for all the above as an author myself.

This is a re-post of my ORIGINAL review for “My Love for You is the Sun”

It’s often said that picture books are like poetry, partly because of their short length (barring historical or otherwise unique exceptions), and partly for even non-rhyming stories have a rhythm, a melody. Sometimes even a chorus (Even when the book’s not musically-themed).

“My Love for You is the Sun” is all of those things and more. Author Julie Hedlund (“ and the storybook app “A Shiver of Sharks“) uses a simple but effective rhyme scheme to tell a tale that’s further enhanced by the detailed mural-like illustrations by maverick artiste, Susan Eaddy.

If Art Clokey animated a bedtime story told by Gumby’s mother when he was born/created (only the Clokey Clan knows which is the case…), this is what it might look like. 

 

I’m not a parent yet (and some days I wonder if I’d be a “Good Enough” one), but if I do take that path, this book will be read to however many of them I have, and I’m honored I had played a small part in bringing this book, and to see a look of pride in my kid(s) eyes when they see my name in the acknowledgements, would be cool.

 

Check out your lit. rat’s fan book trailer

(Made with the help of my podcasting friends)

 

If you need further convincing,

check out the OFFICIAL book trailer

(Made by the author herself)

That’s it for Weekly Readings, check back next time!

 

FINAL NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: If my ramblings convinced you to buy one or more of the books mentioned above, please support T.A.A. by clicking on the affiliate cover images above or links within the review.

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Weekly Readings (Holiday 2014 Edition)

Weekly Readings (Holiday 2014)

 

Welcome one and all to another edition of

“Weekly Readings”

 

“Weekly Readings” is a regular feature where your lit. rat reviews various books in the world of fantastical fauna. While T.A.A. focuses on animal stories, humans can and do join in on the fun now and again.

 

This week we’re sharing two fab holiday reads that released this year. From ursine lovers living in the giving spirit we hope to embody throughout the year to the Christmas Eve crisis of a sign-happy cat who wants to be off a certain fellow’s “Naughty List.”


Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift (A Christmas and Hanukkah) (1)

 

Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift

by Dara Goldman (@DaraGoldman)

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2013

 

 

While there are MANY books about the various end of year holidays, few of them combine two holidays in one book, and author-illustrator Dara Goldman’s “Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift” does a fine job bringing two of the most celebrated holidays, Christmas and Hanukkah (and especially in the case of Christmas, the most commercialized) back to their core essence.

Those who know your lit. rat better than most know I’m a hopeless romantic. So bringing love-dovey bears, Christmas, and Hanukkah all in one book can not fail to intrigue me.

In all the hoopla about better diversity in children’s books, we focus so much on the ethnicity of the characters (for those who write about humans…) that we don’t give enough attention to how cultural traditions blend among family and friends.

While there increasingly more books about atypical or nontraditional families, we don’t often feature the mix of varying cultures and spiritual upbringings.

After all, diversity’s not just about mixing nationalities, but cultures and spiritual traditions, too.

Dara’s illustrations are not just cute and comforting to the eyes, but contained details that are subtle but integral to grounding the reader and those being read to.

While best known for his tales of the American Old West, author O. Henry also wrote a short story called,The Gift of the Magi” about a couple with little money but did what they could to give their significant other a special gift.

The base structure of that story is used to charming effect in this story of two ursine sweethearts. Mazzāl Tōbh and Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9780803741003

 

 

Here Comes Santa Cat

by Deborah Underwood (@underwoodwriter)

Illustrated by Claudia Rueda

 Publisher: Dial (Imprint of Penguin Books)

Pub. Date: October 21st, 2014

 

 

Author Deborah Underwood first introduced us to this charismatic chap earlier this year with “Here Comes The Easter Cat”, which was also one of T.A.A.’s “Most Anticipated Reads of 2014″ and now Cat is back with a Christmas Eve crisis, he’s been a bit naughty and fears he’ll be passed over by Santa Claus on Christmas, so he gets the notion to dress like Santa (as seen on the “Halls Decked” cover) and give himself a gift. 

 

If you seen the “Maisy” animated series (based on the long-running books by author-illustrator Lucy Cousins) you’ll recognize the unseen narrator interacting with Cat, who tells him that Santa gives gifts to those who give to others, not himself, and after some harried high-jinks and missteps, it’s a great book that allows for reader participation.

 

Illustrator Claudia Rueda uses a whimsical yet simple style to allow the feisty feline to shine. While I sometimes fear this tactic can be overused, the clean white minimalist backgrounds (reminiscent of the “Kipper” animated series based on Mick Inkpen’s 25+ year picture book series) is used to brilliant effect here, it allows the reader, and those being read to, to imagine Cat’s world being anywhere and anything, and brings a further level of immersion.

 

While I’m an unabashed fan of the extravagant, meticulously detailed illustrations  of Richard Scary or is something to be said for the thoughtful use of minimalist art style and direction.

 

Hey, it certainly didn’t do Ian Falconer’s “Olivia” any harm!

 

(Even the intro to the 2010 animated series invokes this tactic which allows us to see the “people” in her world more intimately)

 

As I touched on in my review of I’m always impressed when authors create characters who have such.

 

While the name of our site is “Talking Animal Addicts” many of our fantastic fauna brothers and sisters don’t speak in the audible sense, but they are FAR from silent…

 

Just as Bernard Waber’s “Lyle the Crocodile” used his facial expression and physicality to show his feelings and opinions, and Charlotte’s web-woven words help lead to keeping Wilbur out of the slaughterhouse, while also gave the reader insight to their evolving friendship, Cat uses a tactic commonly employed tactic during the silent film era  (and “Looney Tunes” alum, Wile E. Coyote) of holding up various signs to make his points, and is one of the sources to the humor.  

 

In closing, “Here Comes Santa Cat” gives us another sensationally seasonal outing with one of T.A.A.’s favorite felines, and hope you’ll find this charming book under your tree…

 

Check out the OFFICIAL Book Trailer for

“Here Comes Santa Cat”

That’s All For This Special Edition of 

“Weekly Readings.” Happy Holidays!

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Weekly Readings (Guido and Bonnie Edition)

 

 

Weekly Readings - Guido and Bonnie Ed. FB II.5

 

 

Welcome one and all to another edition of

“Weekly Readings”

Normally, your lit. rat reviews a range of books solo, but today my canine-feline colleagues, Guido & Bonnie (@GuidoandBonnie), we’ll be helping me review today’s book roster, as our theme speaks to two topics near and dear to their hearts and mine, pet empowerment!

First up, the book that inspired Guido & Bonnie to be the pet advisers/entertainers they are today-

 

Dear Tabby

Dear Tabby

by Carolyn Crimi

Illustrated by David Roberts

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pub. Date: February 8th, 2011

 

 

Even pets have problems, but while humans have countless newspaper columns, call-in radio shows and daytime television programs, where can pets go for advice?

 

That’s where Tabby comes in…

 

One of the things I LOVE about Tabby is  that she’s inclusive rather than exclusive.

 

She doesn’t only advise her like species, but also birds, dogs, hamsters, and even trained Circus bears!

 

She’ll also counsel the wilder critter folks, such as a lovelorn skunk who could be “Looney Tunes” alum, Pepe le Pew’s long lost distant cousin. 

 

 

Well. minus the french accent and “Don Juan” complex…

 

Author Carolyn Crimi nails the epistolary form. Each exchange between the animal inquirer and Tabby short and sweet  with tons of personality.

 

Illustrations by David Roberts have this hip and slick retro style that still feels contemporary, and in this era of digital communications, seeing the use of paper, pencils, and typewriters delights the nostalgia buff in me. 

KatieDavis2013

 

I have to give a shout out to Katie Davis who through interviewing Carolyn for her podcast “Brain Burps About Books” I discovered Carolyn and her body of work, but in particular this book, which will be celebrating it’s 5th anniversary (or “Book Birthday” if you prefer) February 2015!

 

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Carolyn’s a former Michigander, and your lit. rat lives in the mitten state (as does T.A.A. HQ)   

 

As I mentioned at the outset of the review, this book has a special place in the hearts of my friends, Guido & Bonnie, so I asked them to share their thoughts-

 

GUIDO's GLAM SHOT

I may be a dog, but unlike previous canine generations, I don’t subscribe to the conventions of cat and dog relations.

 

My best friend and confidant is Bonnie, who just happens to be a cat.

 

Granted, we got off to a rough start when we first met, but now we’re B.F.F.Bs(i.e. Best Friends Forever with Boundaries)

 

Sure, there are some cats who rub me the wrong way, but it’s subjective, just like there are fellows and ladies my own species I don’t jive with.

 

What I love best about “Dear Tabby” is that as Taurean mentioned in his review, Tabby’s inclusive, advising cats, dogs such as yours truly, and all the domestic and feral folks in between.

 

 

 

 

BONNIE GLAM SHOT

   

BONNIE

When Guido first proposed the idea of being in the pet empowerment/entertaining business, I thought he was just dreaming of the impossible.

I’m the realist in our friendship (though Guido argues it’s more like the “closet Pessimist”), and after having a fun, but stressful stint at being a show cat in the pageant circuit, I was not thrilled about being in the public eye any time soon…

But Guido and Wendy (our fairy god-mouse, long story there…) convinced me to go for it, and this book (a favorite of my human, Andrea, in her pre-adolescent era) gave me the courage and sparked the passion in myself to do what Tabby does.

While our methods are more high tech and global, versus Tabby’s network being analog and smaller scale, our goals are the same, to give pets a voice, and if possible, a little advice to aid their journey through this existence we call life.

But Guido and I are taking it a step further to help pet parents get their pets a little better, and hopefully entertain them both along the way.

Of all the countless “Out there” ideas Guido’s had (and still has) over the years, this I have to admit is his most brilliant yet.

Thanks Guido, Wendy, and you, Dear Tabby, for inspiring me to take the first step into this challenging but fun and fulfilling life!

Check Out T.A.A.’s

Fan Trailer

For “Dear Tabby”

Also, Check Out

A Special Fan Tribute to “Dear Tabby”

(Featuring Bonnie and Swinebert Glockchester from “Swinebert & Dempsey”)

 

 

 Also, check out Carolyn’s interview

with Katie Davis from a Classic 

“Brain Burps About Books”

(Ep. #48: Dear Tabby, a Wise Cat Gives Advice)

 

 

 

Help Me, Mr. Mutt

Help Me, Mr. Mutt!

Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems

by Janet Stevens

and Susan Stevens Crummel

Illustrated by Janet Stevens

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Pub. Date: April 1st 2008

Cats aren’t the only species in the “Pet Advice” business.

 

Like his feline counterpart “Dear Tabby” Mr. Mutt gives dry wit and matter-of-fact tone to reply the the hounds, terriers, spaniels and mutts of all kinds who write him.

 

Epistolary stories (i.e. Stories told entirely via letters) are tricky to pull off because just like in straight prose, each exchange has to pull its weight, and this book does just that.

 

Unlike “Dear Tabby” that had a variety of pets and/or pet parent issues, all the letters to Mr. Mutt have two things in common, dogs with human issues, and all wonder why their cat roommates get better treatment, consideration, or otherwise special treatment from their humans they don’t.

 

Another twist in “Mr. Mutt” is that his cat roomie, known only as “The Queen”, often hi-jacks his column to counterattack his jabs about cats.

 

At one point, she pulls a “Garfield” and takes over the column Diva-Style! But unlike the more laid back and naive Odie from the iconic Jim Davis comic strip, Mr. Mutt’s got four-legged friends from all over, who are more than willing to lend a paw to impeach “The Queen” from her throne… 

 

As you might suspect from the cover credits, Mr. Mutt’s a family affair, being the brain child of two sisters, Janet and Susan Stevens who co-wrote the story, and the wispy atmospheric illustrations (done by sister Janet, who’s also an illustrator) contrasts yet compliments the pithy quips from Mr. Mutt and “The Queen.”

 

Help Me, Mr. Mutt! Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems” is a rough and tumble, tongue and cheek look at the world of pets advising pets.

 

To paraphrase “Casablanca” Here’s at

looking you,  Guido & Bonnie-

 

 

 

 

GUIDO

 

It’s nice to know there are other dogs of a certain age like me who’re joining the pet empowerment profession, for me, Mr. Mutt’s right up there with “Dear Tabby.”

 

Though I do take issue with his narrow views on cats, but he’s from a different era, where cats and dogs had a lot of proverbial axes to grind toward each other.

 

Or in the case of of the popular cartoons back then, axes were used in the literal sense!

 

That aside, Mr. Mutt’s an okay dog in my book, and on my bookshelf.

 

 

BONNIE

 

You might think I’d side with “The Queen” given she’s the main cat of this book, but you’d be wrong.

 

Like Mr. Mutt himself, I’m not fond of her, either, it’s cats like her that give ALL cats a bad rep not only to dogs, but humans, too!

 

The Queen’s lucky she doesn’t live near me, or we’d give new and more literal meaning to the term “Cat Fight.”

 

Anyway, it’s books like this that remind me how lucky I am Guido and I can live/work in harmony, which doesn’t mean never fight, or get annoyed with each other, it’s just not a “War” every time.

 

 

Letters From A Depserate Dog

Letters From A Desperate Dog

by Eileen Christelow

Publisher: Clarion Books

Pub. Date: October 16th, 2006

 

 

Emma is a dog with human problems.

 

Most of the time, life with her human, George, is great, but as every pet (and pet parent) knows, there are days when the kibble hit the fan, and Emma’s overall a good dog, she makes her share of missteps, though George’s temperamental nature doesn’t help!

 

(He’s an artist, they can be moody sometimes…) 

 

Emma, both heartbroken and furious, finally decides it’s time to get some help, in the form of “Dear Queenie” a canine advice columnist who gives sassy and succinct counsel to pets at the end of their proverbial rope, and under the alias “Desperate Dog” Emma begins a string of correspondence between herself and Queenie that ultimately leads her to leave George’s home to the cat and be her own dog!

 

Best known for her “Five Little Monkeys” series, author-illustrator Eileen Christelow brings us a funny and fast-paced tale that dog lovers everywhere will find as much truth as there is fiction.

 

Inspired by the exploits of the “Original Emma” (the author’s dog who sadly died in 2013) Eileen’s frenetic yet warm illustrations reflect inviting yet quirky tones of the story, fans of “Martha Speaks” will definitely take to Emma’s direct and spunky voice.

 

The use of the comic panel format (similar to “There’s A Wolf at the Door” that T.A.A. reviewed for Halloween 2014) adds a fun twist that is well executed. If you’ve got pups of your own, who are hard-pressed to read (or have read to them) anything in non-comic format, this book surely delight.

 

As an author myself, I know there are often callous jokes in publishing about authors advised not write about their dogs, if Eileen heard this counsel, I’m  SO GLAD she didn’t listen to them!

 

“Letters From A Desperate Dog” is like reading a “For Better Or Worse” comic strip from the dog’s POV.

 

Big Words I know, but if the Patterson’s late canine friend, Farley, could read, this might’ve been his favorite book.

 

After all, family issues are a two-way street, even between us and our furry friends. 

 

On that note, here are Guido and Bonnie’s

thoughts on the book-

 

 

GUIDO

 

I also have to admit that like Emma, things between my master and me have rarely been smooth.

 

He’s a great guy, and his wife and “pups” are good to me, but I sure have my share  of complaints…

 

The biggest is the matter of family vacations.

 

Often Bonnie and I are left out and either stay home or at some daycare.

 

Which to be fair, is a nice place, and you make new friends, but do they HAVE to call it “Doggie Daycare?”

 

I mean, I’m not a newborn pup, folks, I’m often the oldest dog there these days.

 

While Bonnie did go on a car trip with Andrea (her human) to Canada to visit Bonnie’s sister Marjorie and her new kittens, the last time my master took me on vacation with him was over 9 years ago, and in dog years that’s nearly a century!

 

I think I’ll write to “Dear Queenie” myself soon… (Even Pet Advisers need advice themselves, too, you know!)

 

 

BONNIE

Emma and George’s relationship reminds me a lot of my human Andrea’s relationship with her father , who’s Guido’s human, now that Andrea’s in the whirlwind of adolescence, she and her dad have many a battle over everything from clothes, food, to dating! 

 

The biggest fight we ever had was when she was 10 and I accidentally ate a special picnic lunch

she made for her (eventual) boyfriend (long story, but let’s just say a tuna melt and shrimp balls were involved…)

 

Anyway, while I enjoyed “Letters From A Desperate Dog” I didn’t get as into it as Guido, but I appreciate the cat in it wasn’t “Evil” which is often how we feline gals and guys are portrayed in books from a dog’s POV.

 

The Desperate Dog Writes Again

The Desperate Dog Writes Again

by Eileen Christelow

Publisher: Clarion Books

Pub. Date: October 28, 2010

I was psyched that “Letters From A Desperate Dog” got a sequel and I can attest it’s just as great as the first!

Emma, and her human, George have more or less worked out the strife they went through in the previous book, but peace doesn’t last long when George starts dating a woman that Emma suspects is up to no good.

The (un-named) cat, who also lives with Emma and George, tries to explain that this woman is merely his new girlfriend, and possibly something more…

But Emma’s certain that Loretta (George’s girlfriend) is , and her dog, Hankie, even more-so.

When her efforts to protect and warn George backfire BIG TIME, Emma once again writes to “Dear Queenie” canine advice columnist, under her alias, “Desperate Dog” in hopes finding a way to warn George of Loretta’s “True Colors” before it’s too late!

Author-illustrator Eileen Christielow pulls out all the stops with this follow-up story. 

The use of comic panels shows a greater confidence in the overall presentation from both a artistic and functional standpoint.

“The Desperate Dog Writes Again” is yet another love letter for pets and pet parents everywhere, and a humorous reminder that not all changes are bad, especially l when they involve PIZZA!

 

With that, take it away, Guido & Bonnie-

GUIDO

Another great book about a “Desperate Dog” who’s anything but to me, and if I weren’t already in a relationship with a fine Irish Terrier (after YEARS being of single) I’d totally ask her out. That said, Emma, could you invite me and Bonnie over next time it’s Loretta’s pizza night? 

BONNIE

I got into the sequel much more in large part because the (unnamed) cat got more page time, and I love how his and Emma’s dynamics mirror mine and Guido’s.

I’m often the rational sort and like Guido, Emma’s the free-spirited “Thinks outside the box” type, and while that has its merits, it can be problematic at times…

Check Out T.A.A.’s Fan Trailer for

“The Desperate Dog” Books

(You Can Also Get Social With 

“The Desperate Dog” on Facebook)

 
That’s All For This Special Edition of “Weekly Readings.”
See you next time.
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Talking Animal Addicts 5th Anniversary

T.A.A. 5th Anniversary FINAL

 

 

T.A.A. turns 5 today, and your lit. rat’s so happy he began this journey back in December 2010 to bring you the latest happenings in the world of fantastical fauna, and 2014’s been our most special year yet, and 2015 looks to be our most ambitious year yet.

 

I also want to give special thanks to my colleagues who will be offering regular contributions to T.A.A. in the coming weeks and months-

 

Guido and Bonnie 2-Shot (MINI 3)

Guido & Bonnie

(from T.A.A. FM, our upcoming podcast network)

(@GuidoandBonnie)

 

 

 

Swinebert & Dempsey (Fancy 2-Shot) - FINALSwinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck (@Swinebert_and_D)

(from T.A.A. FM, our upcoming podcast network)

 

 

 

 

To those of you followed us since the beginning, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and give a hearty welcome to those of you new to T.A.A. 

 

In closing, I’d appreciate if you’d leave a comment below and tell me what you’d love to see on T.A.A. in 2015: Author interviews, more special feature articles, more ways to get involved in the T.A.A. community?

Any ideas for our YouTube channel? 

 

Until next time, may the fantastical fauna be with you.

 

Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins)

“The Literary Rat” 

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

Talking Animal Addicts

 

 

 

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Weekly Readings (Many Thanks 2014 Edition)

 Weekly Readings Many Thanks 2014 Books 3.5

Welcome to another addition of 

“Weekly Readings”

 

For those new here, Weekly Readings is when your lit. rat reviews books I’ve read here and there.

 

While T.A.A. focuses on animal stories, we do give humans their due now and again…

 

This week, in honor of (U.S.) Thanksgiving at T.A.A. HQ, your lit. rat reviews a quartet of tomes celebrating family, friends, and of course, FOOD!

 

 

 

Baking Day at Grandma's

Baking Day at Grandma’s

by Anika Denise (@AnikaDenise)

Illustrated by Christopher Denise (@cadenise)

Publisher: Philomel

(An Imprint of Penguin)

Pub. Date: April 29th, 2014

 

REVIEW of this book in progress, check back soon!

 

Here’s the OFFICIAL book trailer for

“Baking Day at Grandma’s”

 

 

 

 

Now from baking bears to a family of foxes who learn about “The Art of French Cooking” from a brother who knows what’s up in the kitchen-

 

Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke

 

 

Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke

by Pamela Duncan Edwards

Illustrated by Henry Cole

Publisher: Philomel

Pub. Date: September 1st 1995

 

 

The title may be a tounge twister, but there’s no cofusion about how awesome this book is!

Being the ambitious cook in my family, the cover drew me to this book right away, I’m not quite as experienced in French cuisine as Fosdyke, but I’m making strides this year! (but that’s another story to be shared another time)

 

I’m new to Pamela Duncan Edwards work, and this was a fun book to get me introduced to her work. Illustrator Henry Cole (Best known for the sadly controversial “And Tango Makes Three”) gives us colorful and spry illustrations and gives special attention the furry pelts of our foxy brood.

 

While Mom’s taking a Florida holiday, her quintet are left to fend for themselves, and while four of the siblings are keen to put their hunting skills to the test, their brother Fosdyke does his “Julia Child” thing in the kitchen.

 

When his siblings tease him for taking the frou-frou route, he’d say, “A fox is a fox. Whatever the food.”

 

On that note, I’d like to give a short history lesson, and no, it won’t be boring!

 

If you’ve read our last two “Weekly Readings” you know that like weasels, as well as rats such as myself and Gabriel (from my upcoming debut novel), foxes are often typecast as the villains and tricksters in fiction.

 

While Fosdyke’s sibs are all too happy (at first…) to be the barnyard stalkers, Fosdyke himself has no qualms with cooking with whatever’s easily on paw, and seriously, mushrooms are a BLESSING for those of us who’re omnivores who want to keep their meat consumption in check.

 

I asked my new acquaintance, and the newest member of our T.A.A. family, Thorne Thistlestop (aka @TheBookishFox on Twitter) and a friend of our Swine-Feline duo “Swinebert & Dempsey” (@Swinebert_and_D) to weigh in on this book- 

 

Thorne

(Thorne Thistlestop “The Bookish Fox”)

 

When “The Literary Rat” that my friends, Swinebert and Dempsey have been working with these past couple years, told me about reviewing “Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke” I couldn’t wait to read it!

 

But being short on cash, I was elated that Bookmobile Sentinel (the traveling library on wheels I work at as librarian) had a copy and I read it during lunch hour.

 

When I was growing up, you’d be hard pressed to find non-evil foxes in books, even wolves have their share of heroes on the side of good, if weren’t not the petty crooks or full on villains, we’re super-sexualized to the umpteenth degree, and that’s particularly interesting in my case being gay.

 

my only (non-evil) literary role models were Mr. Fix-it (from Richard Scarry’s World) and Shutta Crum’s “Fox and Fluff” which T.A.A. reviewed a ways back…

 

From the title on, “Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke” is a fun story combing alteration, unorthodox rhyme, stellar illustrations and wordplay using repetition to clever effect.

 

Special Thanks to Thorne Thistlestop for sharing his paws-on experience with the book, as well as a bit of himself, so look forward to hearing more from “The Bookish Fox” in the coming months…

 

Now we go from a “Foxy Gourmet” to robber dogs on hard times-

 

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Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam

by Tracey Corderoy (@TraceyCorderoy)

Illustrated by Steven Lenton (@2dscrumptious)

Publisher: Nosy Crow (@NosyCrow)

(Imprint of Candlewick Press [@Candlewick])

Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013

 

NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is  a re-post of our original review of “Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.”

 

Whoever said it’s easier to make a dishonest living never met Shifty and Sam, two dogs with major hard luck in the thievery racket.

 

For every “Artful Dodger” or “Bonnie and Clyde” there’s a “Laurel and Hardy” of the robber fraternity, and that’s the badge of dishonor these dogs wear. Their “Swag” bag often empty of loot, and as such short on money.

 

One night, they hatch their most promising plan yet, invite their neighbors to tea, treat them to bite-sized feast, then slip out and ransack faster than you can say “R.S.V.P.”

 

The only thing is: they can’t afford to get a ready-made spread, and they’ve never baked before!

 

But hey, desperate times call for learning the precise measurements behind baking, and as a fledgling home baker myself, that’s no idle matter.

 

Luckily with a cookery book on their paws, and the gumption only desperation can bring about, they surprise themselves (and their guests) with a feast of truly delectable edibles.

 

“Operation: Trojan Tea Party” didn’t go off without a hitch, but that’s only the beginning of their problems…

 

Author Tracey Corderoy uses a light rhyming scheme and couplet paragraphs that convey a concise yet complete narrative that nicely blends with Steven Lenton’s illustrations that use color, light and shadows to excellent effect, I truly felt like I was living out a short film as I read through.

 

While we at T.A.A. don’t condone theft, of course, we do support anyone who changes their ways for the better, and without spoiling the ending, let’s just say “Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam” bring a fresh spin on the often spoken adage “Crime Doesn’t Pay.”

 

To invoke the words of Jiminy Cricket- 

“Let your conscience be your guide.”

 

 

Here’s our fan book trailer for

“Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam”

 

Finally, this lit. rat is PROUD to share a story that will make even the most inexperienced in the kitchen want to rise to the challenge-

 

Tiny Pie

Tiny Pie

by Mark Bailey and Michael Oatman

Illustrated by Edward Hemingway 

(@EdwardHemingway)

Publisher: Running Press Books 

(@Running_Press)

Pub. Date: May 7th, 2013

 

It took forever to get to this one, which is becoming an unintended theme of my reviews as of late, but as I suspected it was worth the wait.

 

The story begins at a fancy party.

 

Given the choice of either early bedtime or stay and be out of the way, Little Ellie opts to stick around for what she thought would be a fun time. While her parents and the big folks are having fun, Ellie’s not, but soon that would change…

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to my share of gatherings that left a lot to be desired, but while I was more apt to be the wallflower rattling on the outskirts of large gatherings, Little Ellie is far from shy, but not only is she not having fun, she’s STARVING!

 

But everyone’s too busy saying Ellie’s “Too Small” to be here to notice.

 

Before she gives into despair, Ellie notices a hole in the wall, and being the curious gal she is, peaks inside- She discovers the miniature set of the (appropriately named) “Hole in the Wall Kitchen”cooking show, hosted by a mouse chef, and that alone was enough to get me, and while I’ve not yet seen Pixar’s “Ratatouille” (I’m getting to it, okay?) anything involving food or cooking will always spark my interest.

 

Illustrator Edward Hemingway’s retro-inspired art style is like this love child between colorized “New Yorker” cartoons with the exaggerated facial features of “MAD” (though a lot more tasteful, in my opinion, no pun intended) creating something that feels old and contemporary at the same time. Not an easy feat to achieve.

Plus, the excellent use of rhyming by our minature culinary friend adds a fun dimension to the story.

 

“Tiny Pie” is a charming reminder that no matter how small we feel, whether in the figurative or literal sense, nothing worthwhile is out of reach, and sometimes it takes a little gal’s (or guy’s) touch to do BIG things!

 

Side Note From The Literary Rat: I haven’t gotten the chance to try the recipe at the end of the book yet, but I will, and share my thoughts during our holiday showcase.

 

 

 

Here’s our fan book trailer for 

“Tiny Pie”

 

 That’s it for Weekly Readings! See you next time.
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