Weekly Readings (National Pig Day Edition)

National Pig Day 2015 Banner

 

Welcome one and all to another edition of

“Weekly Readings”

Normally, your lit. rat reviews a range of books solo, but seeing as today is “National Pig Day” T.A.A.’s favorite pig, Swinebert Glockchester (from “Swinebert & Dempsey”) will be taking over today and shares some of his favorite books, and reprises some of our previous reviews. 

 

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Hamlet and the Tales of Sniggery Woods

by Maggie Kneen

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Pub. Date: May 26th, 2009

This is a charming collection of stories about a gentile pig who despite the Shakespearean roots of his name, takes inspiration not in the theatre world, but the world of culinary arts and runs a cooking school, Maggie Kneen’s illustrations undoubtedly hearken back to a time when the forefathers and fore-mothers of animal fantasy were just getting started.

I wish there were more books set in the charming world of Sniggery Woods, but even if this remains a one and done, we got a nice day visit, and I encourage anyone who loves short reads and old school charm give it a read.

 

 

 

 

9780786805662

Mary Had A Little Ham

by Margie Palatini

Illustrated by Guy Francis

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)

Pub. Date: September 2nd, 2003

 

NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a re-post of our original review of “Mary Had A Little Ham”

 

Even the shyest souls among us have at times dreamed of life in the spotlight, even your lit. rat likes to pretend he’s a famous actor or performer of some kind.

 

In some ways my upcoming podcast imitative “T.A.A. FM” will give me the chance to in some small way live that fantasy, but with my voice more so than my face, but more on that later, now onto the review…

 

As the title suggests, this is a retelling of the vintage nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb” but recast to star a pig by the name of Stanley Snoutowski who leaves his home on the farm to chase the siren song of stardom.

 

Illustrator Guy Francis left nothing to chance, using every page spread from cover to cover, crease to corner, and dedication to end papers, to invoke the spirit of Old Hollywood at it’s best.

 

While also depicting the lows of our swine-tastic protagonist on his way from humble beginnings to the big time, part of which is chronicled via the old school snail mail between, and his girl, named, you guessed it–Mary, alongside Margie’s spare but effective prose.

 

My friend Swinebert Glockchester (of Swinebert and Dempsey fame) has a dad who worked in the movies as an actor, and when I shared the story with him, he said-

 

“This pig fits my Pa to a T, when he was just getting started in show business. Hope Dempsey and me do as well with our endeavors.”  

 

You will, S.B. I’ll do my best to make sure of that. Classic movie buffs and starry eyed thespians alike will find much humor and unabashed optimism abound in “Mary Had A Little Ham.” On that note: Here’s looking at you, Stanley!

 

 

9781454904168

Rufus Goes to School

by Kim T. Griswell

Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (@SterlingBooks)

Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013

 

NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a re-post of our original review of “Rufus Goes To School”

 

Rufus Leroy Williams III (you can just call him Rufus) is a little piglet, with a BIG, yet simple dream-

 

To read his favorite book, that at the moment he only can follow from the pictures.

 

Rufus decides to send himself to school so he can learn to read.

 

But has a heck of a time convincing the principal to let him attend.

 

He seems to confuse earnest pig Rufus for “The Big Bad Wolf” of Grimm’s fame, not in the man-eating sense, but thinking him more a preordained bully than potential scholar, thankfully Rufus remains unflappable in his quest to attend school.

 

How does he win this misguided principal over? You’ll have to read

and find out.

 

Valeri Gorbachev’s illustrations have this warm, unassuming charm matching well with Kim’s narrative, using repetition and rhythm to great effect.

 

The warm tone to the illustrations reminds me of the late and great Fred Marcelino, and dare I say, the legendary Richard Scarry, but his style’s all his own.

 

Swinebert and Dempsey Title Cover #2

Given the piggy nature of this book, I’ve asked Swinebert Glockchester (from T.A.A. FM’s“Swinebert & Dempsey”) to share his thoughts on the book-

 

Swinebert: This book reminds me of my nephew Trug’s first day of school

TRUG-2.5

He’s in 4th grade now, but when he first went to school, he was just as eager as Rufus to learn to read. 

Thankfully his school was open to him from the start, though Trug told me the janitor looked at him in a “Scary Mean” way whenever he saw him.

 

(«Swinebert’s Nephew, Trug Glockchester)

Apparently, he’d been told the myth that pigs are always messy and smelly slobs that would make his job all the harder.

Let me make one thing clear, it’s true we pigs like to get messy and muddy, but we’re not all slobs in every circumstance, and as far as Trug and me, we know there’s a time and place to be muddy and a time to be clean and neat, and at school (especially a human/nonhuman school like Trug’s) it’s best to be clean and neat!

 

SWINEBERT (YOUTH)That said, I went to an all piglet school when I lived on a ranch outside of New York City, and we did have a “Mud Bath” period, but we always showered off afterwards.

 

 

 

 

(Swinebert  in the flush of youth)

 

Reading “Rufus Goes to School” brought back all those memories of Trug’s (and yours truly) first days of school: the good times, bad times, sad times, and all the times in-between.

 

 

Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)

Uncle Swinebert's Signature (FINAL)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S: I can’t wait for the next book “Rufus Goes To Sea” Coming April 2015

9781454910527

 

BONNIE GLAM SHOTBefore I go, check out the video I did with Bonnie

(from T.A.A. FM’s “Guido & Bonnie“) as part of a fan tribute to Carolyn Crimi’s “Dear Tabby” 

 

 

 

That’s it for Weekly Readings.

See you 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(s).

 

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Weekly Readings XVI

Weekly Readings 16Welcome 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’re giving one of our “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015″ the V.I.P. treatment-

 

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WOLFIE The Bunny

by Ame Dyckman 

(@AmeDyckman)

 

Illustrated by Zachariah O’Hora

(@ZachariahOHora)

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers [@littlebrown]

Pub. Date: February 17th, 2015

 

Family.

 

Few words can strike such sharp, striking, and varying emotions in people.

 

It’s bad enough having to deal with a drooling tag-along kid brother or sister invading your space, messing with your stuff, and hogging your parents attention with seemingly no end in sight! 

 

(Which depending on your age, and family dynamic, may be a drawback, or a plus…) 

 

But I’m guessing that on top of all that, you at least didn’t have the underlying concern of being EATEN by your tag-along sibling! 

 

That’s where “Wolfie The Bunny” comes in.

 

No sooner do Mama and Papa bunny discover an abandoned wolf pup at their doorstep, they don’t hesitate to take him in as their own, but Dot’s FAR from convinced this is a good idea, he’s a WOLF for bunny’s sake!

Do her folks not realize what wolves eat!? 

Sure, they’ll start out with milk or formula, but it’s only a matter of time before they crave meat.

From Chicken soup, to beef stew, lamb chops, and yes, even rabbit in mustard sauce…

 

But it seems Wolfie’s taken to veggies, especially carrots (of course), which is not the least surprising to his vegetarian mom and dad, but Dot’s certain this diet quirk won’t last long.

 

Eventually, Wolfie grows from a tiny pup, to becoming the biggest member of the household, which only makes Dot all the more anxious.

 

It’s hard enough being a big sister, even harder when your kid brother is now WAY BIGGER than you, and could give into his predatory instincts at any time.

 

But the only thing predatory about Wolfie is ever vigilant “stalking” Dot everywhere she goes.

 

Not to eat her, but simply to be near his lagomorph sister in that annoyingly clingy, yet sometimes endearing way little kids follow the big kids, even though in Wolfie’s case, he’s the bigger one!

 

When Dot runs an errand to the grocery store (reluctantly bringing Wolfie along) the inter-species sibling duo encounter one bully of a bear. 

 

It’s at this point the tables turn, and Dot begins to realize that while Wolfie may look big and scary to her on the outside, he’s still a pup on the inside, who needs a big sister like her who despite her size, doesn’t scare easily.

 

Even when going up against a bear of a bully bigger than both of them.

 

Those of you with siblings will especially find much humor and solace, whether you were the older sibling whose aptitude for patience runs only so deep, or you were the “baby” of the family who always wanted your older sibling’s cool cred.

 

Being an only child from a emotionally distant family, I still have tales of cousins who could drive me as crazy as if they were my siblings, only I was the “Wolfie” in those scenarios, but I never had a sister like Dot looking out for me, so he’s got an edge I didn’t have growing up.

 

Author Ame Dyckman uses spare text and punchy vocabulary that flows with the illustrations, creating that “magic of words and pictures” all picture books strive for.

Zachariah O’Hora’s illustrations have this ability to look modern and classic at the same time, yet have this edge to them which I’d describe as “Punk Lucy Cousins” with some splashes of Dick Bruna’s simple use of shapes, with a ’60s retro color palate that give this book a style all its own.

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A stark contrast from the hipper, slightly ’40s inspired look in his solo outing “No fits, Nelson!” 

 

Those who parrot the common saying, “Times change, people don’t” be thankful you’re not near me when you say that…

 

Just like with many things in life, families HAVE CHANGED, and evolved, from the hyper-idealized two parents, 2.5 kids and maybe a pet or two.

 

I’m certainly not criticizing if you have such a family, of course, but families today can and do come in so many forms, and while we often “glorify” the deadbeat/dysfunctional families that have become media icons, we could stand to see more realistic and HAPPIER families in fiction.

 

Despite the old adage that happy families don’t make for good stories, take the “Swiss Family Robinson” for instance.  

 

They had a heralding adventure of survival, but they were FAR from the broken families the evening news seems to obsess themselves, and not always for the obvious reasons…

 

I think with so many kids and teens growing up in less than ideal family dynamics, they need to see more positive portrayals of what they may not get in their own life, while still containing  the conflict and stakes good books need.

While lack of non-stereotypical portrayals of ethnicity in children’s books sparked the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in Spring 2014, what I feel gets lost in that important (and sadly needed) initiative is that diversity isn’t just about race.

 

It’s also about showing varied portrayals of gender roles and families today, whatever their racial identity, life orientation, or species, given our primary focus on T.A.A.

 

“Wolfie the Bunny” is one of the books, and most definitely lives up to being one of our “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015.”

Here’s The

“Wolfie the Bunny” trailer

(Created by John Schu/@MrSchuReads)

 

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 XV

Weekly Readings 15 (FINAL REMIX 3)

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…

 

Helen and Thomas (Tom) Docherty

(Left: Helen Dorcherty, Right: Thomas Dorcherty)

This week, to celebrate the (U.K.) release of “Abracazebra” by husband-wife team, Helen and Thomas Dorcherty, your lit. rat decided to treat you to an encore of our reviews for “The Driftwood Ball” (a solo outing for illustrator Thomas Docherty) and “The Snatchabook” (their previous collaboration) which happily is available in the U.S. and Canada.

 

But first, T.A.A. is honored to be among the first in America to give our verdict on Helen and Thomas’s newest team effort-

 

 

 

Abracazebra

 

Abracazebra

Written by Helen Docherty (@docherty_helen)

Illustrated by Thomas Docherty (@TDIllustration)

(U.K.) Publisher: Scholastic Press

(U.K.) Pub. Date: February 5th, 2015

 

Yawnalot’s a small town where not much used to happen. Even so, crotchety old Goat’s the bighorn on campus, until “Abracazebra” and her traveling magic show comes to town.

 

The townsfolk are enchanted not by her slight of hoof, but her inner charm and friendly nature.

 

 

Goat grows jealous the longer she stays, and when it looks like the zebra’s ready to settle down in Yawnalot, he tries to turn the town against her, and succeeds! Only to realize the real “magic” is friendship, and that there’s room for everyone to shine.

 

Helen’s rhyming prose doesn’t skip a beat, and Thomas’s sprightly use of two-page spreads provides the reader a flowing reading experience that makes it prime read-aloud material.

 

 

While “The Snatchabook” took some bold and creative risks, and is one of the most original homages to the beloved Dr. Seuss, “Abracazebra” uses a simpler rhyme structure which makes it a great book for parents and teachers new to reading aloud to perform without worrying about tripping up the rhythm.

 

Unfortunately, unlike “The Snatchabook”, Abracazebra’s still a U.K./Europe exclusive, something I didn’t realize at the time I nominated it as one of T.A.A.’s “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015.”

 

But Helen was kind enough to send your lit. rat a copy, signed at that! 

 

AZH

 

While T.A.A. normally reviews books that are fairly accessible worldwide, we also believe that sometimes the best books are worth a little extra effort to obtain. Abracazebra is one such book.

 

I was prepared to import it even without Helen’s kind gesture, and having it read it myself, it would’ve been worth every extra “pound, pence, and shilling” to get it! (*I realize the British Monetary system has changed, but “Euro” just doesn’t sound as cool!)

 

When/if this OFFICIALLY hits stateside, your lit. rat will let you know. But if you can afford to import, I promise it’s worth it. 

 

Check out Our Fan Trailer for 

“Abracazebra”

 

The Driftwood Ball

The Driftwood Ball

by Thomas Docherty (@TDIllustration)

(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!

 

Okay, to end on a wallet-friendly note, check the final word on Helen and Thomas’s previous collaboration, and in my opinion one of the best books of 2013 that’s made it stateside!

 

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

The Snatchabook

Written by Helen Docherty (@docherty_helen)

Illustrated by Thomas Docherty (@TDIllustration)

U.K. Publisher: Alison Green Books

U.S. Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

U.K. Pub. Date: October 2013

U.S. Pub. Date: December 2013

 

NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a re-post of our original review of “The Snatchabook.”

 

In the forest, books and story time are celebrated and sacred (You know, really super important), but books start going missing, ruining the late night joys of story time, whether it’s the one reading a book to themselves, or a family reading to each other before bedtime, and a rabbit named Emily is determined to find this thief of books and get them back.

 

Illustrator Thomas Docherty (Helen’s Husband and also an author himself) channels his inner Seuss in the illustrations that properly compliment Helen’s solid but non-traditional rhyme scheme and can happily stand up to author-illustrator duo, Julia Donaldson and Axel Schrieffer (Who brought us gems like “The Gruffalo” and most recently “The Highway Rat”)

 

The Snatchabook manages to envoke a feeling of nostalgia (For those of us old enough to have that perspective, and you don’t have to be 30+ to have it, in my opinion…) and deliver the modern reader’s demand for quick moving tale that lingers in the RIGHT ways and for the right REASONS. Something that may sound counter-intuitive, but something you’ll get when you read this book for yourself and/or to others.

But make no mistake, this story is no fake wannabe, when your literary rat compares ANYTHING to someone as beloved (And often debated about) as Seuss, it’s NOT faint praise, and is still a solid title in its own right, and Helen and Thomas Docherty have a lot to be proud of.

 

“The Snatchabook” is their second collaboration in book form, and I believe it will be known as their breakout work, you heard this first from your Literary Rat, I highly recommend it, and that will be that.

 

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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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. 

51P5TWSA64L

(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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