Weekly Readings (Malice and Masquerade Edition)

Weekly Readings (Malice and Masquerade Edition 2014)

Welcome one and all 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… 


While this edition of “Weekly Readings” is in honor of Halloween, it’s less about the vamps, witches and werewolves, and more about the dressing up-


There's a Wolf at the Door


There’s a Wolf at the Door

(Five Classic Tales)

by Zoё B. Alley

Illustrated by R.W. Alley

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press 

(Division of Macmillan Children’s )

Pub. Date: September 30th, 2008


Hey, I said there weren’t stories about WEREwolves, not wolves period…


As the subtitle implies, this book is a retelling of five classic fairy tales from the Grimm’s school of thought, but what makes this different is that titular lupine dressed to the nines is the through-line connecting these five (usually stand alone) stories.



whereas most fairy retellings (including your lit. rat’s e-publication “Crocodile Flint“) the wolf of “3 Little Pigs” fame is not necessarily be the SAME wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood” or the lesser known “Goslings” story.


In this book, one wolf does it all,  with some expected results, brought about in a new humorous bent.


Well, for the reader, anyway…


As you might guess from the cover credits, like the Grimm bros. original tales, this book’s a family affair between author Zoё B. and illustrator R.W. Alley, who’s illustrated the iconic Paddington Bear (soon to be a motion picture later in 2014) and countless other books, including one of my favorite finds of the year, “Ballerino Nate(written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley) that I reviewed a ways back.


The comic panel presentation is not a mere gimmick, but a clever and fun twist to the Grimm’s stories, and occasionally a subtle “4th wall breaking” snip of wit from our dapper anti-hero addressing the reader directly, a plot technique which sometimes puts me off as a reader but it works here.


With R.W.’s delightfully old-fashioned style, Zoё B.’s lively text mixed with contemporary comic panel format is a winning combo, and is the picture book equivalent of the various “Shakespeare” graphic novels for older readers, making classics more accessible/appealing to the modern pre-reader, and a great early non-superhero alternative introduction to reading in comic/graphic novel format.


When I first discovered this book years ago (when it first came out in 2008) the wolf’s outfit stayed with me for YEARS until I finally had the chance to get my own copy of the book a few weeks ago.


Like I said in my review of “Big Mean Mike” this book took WAY longer to get crossed off my “To Be Read” list than I intended, but it was so worth the wait, and not only the book itself, This is one of those rare few anti-heroes I’d like to spend time with (and feed him something you can’t hunt for), or at the very least, I want his outfit!


I’m actually looking for pieces to recreate it! So far I’ve only found the ascot and red jacket, I’ll keep you posted on when I finally get it put together. But that’s another story I’ll tell another time…



 Check Out Our Fan Book Trailer For

“There’s A Wolf At The Door”

Now from a wolf who’s as hungry as he is dapper, to a dog who simply revels in the fun of dress up-


Milo Is Not A Dog Today


Milo is Not a Dog Today

by Kerstin Schoene

Illustrated by Nina Gunetsreiner

(U.S.)Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (@AlbertWhitman)

Pub. Date: September 2014


Unlike the anti-hero  in review above, Milo is the mild-mannered canine sweetie who (unlike most dogs) LOVES to dress up, and he pretends to be everything from a ladybug (or ladybird for you Brits), a , most of his animal acquaintances don’t “get it” and find him more than a bit odd…


Thankfully, Milo happily does his own thing for his own personal amusement, but eventually meets a new friend who also loves to play dress-up, just like him!


That’s all for Weekly Readings,  have a happy and safe Halloween, see you next time!

Weekly Readings X

 Weekly Readings X (10)

Welcome one and all 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…


Last week, we did our first leap in to middle grade novels after spending the last two years establishing our picture book reviews, but this week we’re back to picture books.



This week, T.A.A.’s going “Back to School” with some books for the young scholar (or scholars) in your life.



We originally meant to time this with the start of the (U.S.) 2014-2015 school year.


But life and tech happens, and hey, sometimes “Better late than never” is NOT the worst thing in the world! (Just a word to the wise and SANE from your lit. rat)



In this double feature review session, we’ve got a tried and true dynamic duo who’ve earned their honors, and a freshman fighting for the right to read who’d make recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai proud-


A Library Book For Bear


A Library Book For Bear

by Bonny Becker

Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Publisher: Candlewick Press (@Candlewick)

Pub. Date: July 22nd, 2014


The curmudgeonly ursine and unflappable rodent have been charming and cracking up readers since their inaugural outing, “A Visitor for Bear” WAY back in 2008-



A Visitor For Bear



Thankfully, the dawn of the “Great Recession”

didn’t take this duo out with it.


As the title of this recent installment implies, we’re heading to one your lit. rat’s favorite places, but guess who’s not yet jazzed about the concept…

As usual, set in his ways Bear thinks he has all the books he needs at home. (Something my grandma might wish was my mindset, given the MANY books in this lit. rat’s private library, without actually having a dedicated library room…)


But ever the patient “Agony Uncle”Mouse tries to get his grumpy buddy bear (not to be confused with THE Grumpy Bear of “Care Bears” fame) to take a bite out of the literary melting pot we lovingly call: the library!


Once again, author Bonny Becker (who wrote one of my fave under-appreciated novels, “Holbrook – A Lizard’s Tale“) and illustrator Kady MacDonald Denton team up for the 5th time reminding readers young and old that libraries ROCK!


Another way you can support authors you love, while feeding your reader addiction even when you’re on a tighter budget than you’d like.


It’s also important for those of us more able to buy books to help our libraries out by donating new or gently used copies, especially library systems like my hometown of Detroit, Michigan (aka T.A.A. HQ),that’s so cash strapped even titles from just LAST YEAR (of the book’s pub. date) aren’t available in the system.


Which often means I can’t always find books I want to read and/or review via DPL (Even through inter-library loan).


It’s something I plan to take action on for 2015, more on that in the near future…


Out next title is the new kid on the block (not the musical group) that I’m so psyched to share-



Rufus Goes To School

Rufus Goes to School

by Kim T. Griswell

Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (@SterlingBooks)

Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013



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-


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.


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)













Follow  Swinebert (and his feline pal, Dempsey) on Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D


facebook-346725←They’re also on Facebook!




That’s it for Weekly Readings. See you next



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).

Weekly Readings (Stanley & Katrina Edition)

Weekly Readings (Stanley & Katrina Edition)


Welcome to another edition of 

Weekly Readings! 


Usually, Weekly Readings is when your lit. rat reviews a mix of picture books I’ve read here and there.


Stan and Katrina 2014

This week is a special edition of Weekly Readings, because we’re spotlighting two new voices in the fantastical fauna landscape who’ll be stopping by T.A.A. as part of their “Book Blasty Tour.” 

Up to now, we’ve only reviewed picture books so far on T.A.A, but Weekly Readings is slowly expanding into middle grade (and some YA) novels, and we’re kicking that off right now-


Stanley and Katrina 1-2

The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets/The Observations of the Obstreperous Animals

(Stanley & Katrina Books 1 and 2)

by Stanley & Katrina (@StanleyNKatrina)

Illustrated by Miro Chun

Katrina von Cat, The Master of Wisdom and knowledge, is used to being the center of her universe, but since the arrival of scrappy dog Stanley, Katrina’s universe has been starkly realigned, and she’s not happy about it!


Throw in the, aspiring astronaut, quirky alien obsessed  Guinea pig next door, “Mr.  Fluffypants” (but rather you address him as Zorg), and you’ve got recipe for mayhem, misadventures, and Shenanigans that make the legendary “Tom and Jerry” look like bosom buddies. 


(Though thankfully, neither Stan nor Katrina can wield branding irons, swords or anvils at each other [far as I know], as I’m pretty sure their pet insurance doesn’t cover pet on pet warfare…)


Given the pet-centric trappings of these books, I decided I needed to get the pet perspective, and who better than T.A.A. FM’s own canine-feline duo, Guido & Bonnie (@GuidoandBonnie) to share their thoughts on the books-






First up, I’ve got to say I’m the luckiest dog in the world, I’ve got a great home, stellar food, and I actually love hanging with my feline right-paw, Bonnie, and reading the funny and offbeat misadventures of Stanley and Katrina reminds of how lucky I am.


Stanley, I know you and Katrina have issues co-mingling, and I so get it. When Bonnie and I first met, we did not get along, either.


But we found ways to make it work, and I’ll share with you (and any other internet-savvy dogs out there) some tips on inter-species bonding-


1. Find ONE thing you like about your pet roomie

(and ask yourself why)


For me, I like that Bonnie keeps me grounded, but still lets me express my craziest (and sometimes brilliant) ideas.

Because we wouldn’t be in the pet advice/entertaining business had we not met, and Bonnie was hesitant to put herself out there after being burnt out in her short stint as a show cat in the pageant circuit.


Having gone through it yourself you know it’s not for everyone.

The best part about working on our upcoming show is that we work with our team, we don’t have to dress up if we don’t want to, and we can set our own hours and pace.


You might want to ask Taurean J. Watkins (who works with Bonnie and me) about working with T.A.A.  (He’s a very accommodating director/producer, always on the lookout for talent, he works a bit slow, but it’s always worth the wait!) Okay, back to the tips-


2. When you have a fight, try to see it from their POV (Point of



This is common trait among writers such as ourselves, but also makes sense in relationships, especially inter-species relationships.


Bonnie likes to be laid back and pragmatic.


Whereas I’m the take charge, balls to the wall, Go-Getter type!


While that definitely leads to disagreement, we also benefit from it.


Bonnie’s learned from me to be a little more daring, and I learned from her to be more methodical in my ambitions.


We learned from each other the best parts of our POVs which might otherwise really annoy us about each other to better our relationship.


You and Katrina can do that, too.  


3. Meet Each Other Half Way

Even though Bonnie and me are friends now, we also have things about each other that still get our dander up (and for us pets with fur, that play on words is SERIOUS business!)


That’s why we best describe our friendship as B.F.F.Bs


(Meaning: Best Friends Forever with Boundaries)


Setting up boundaries is vital for ANY relationship. but especially with those we spend the most time working and/or living with.


Since Bonnie and I live AND work together, we make the effort to respect the others quirks and ticks (and NOT the kind we call 1-800-

PetMeds for, LOL!)


Bonnie likes to be as laid back and centered as possible, where I’m the happy-go-lucky, hyper-emotional type.


So when we both want to do something together, but can’t agree on how to do it, we meet halfway, so we each get a little of what we want. Hope those tips help you out, Stan (is it okay if I call you “Stan?”)








Bonnie SignatureLike Guido said above, I too have a lot to be thankful for, my home, the great food, and my girl Andrea (the daughter of Guido’s human), and I’m equally thankful for Guido.

Katrina, I know living a dog can be vexing at times, and Guido and I do have our share of issues, but what makes our friendship work is that while we learned to enjoy being together, we need our time apart. 


Often the hardest part about our friendship is that our (Same species) friends and family don’t get it.


My mom and Granny (my mom’s mom) are are très [very] Traditional when it comes to dogs.


They’re our sworn, genetic enemies and we must never submit to them! Whenever they come to visit us, Guido leaves the house howling in terror!


Keep in mind, this the same dog who once took a beating to protect yours truly from being catnapped by pet smugglers a few years back!

So he’s no coward, he just can’t stand the species bigotry comments my mom and Granny hiss out at Guido’s expense.


I know they had horrid experiences with dogs as kittens, but I wish they’d see Guido’s different.


You seem to share this view, Katrina, at least where Stanley’s concerned, but you do get on with this Henry, so perhaps you do see it can be on a canine by canine basis.


My kitty siblings and my dad are more accepting toward Guido.


By contrast, Guido’s doggy relations (outside his mother) have embraced me as one of their own, in fact, one his Guido’s brothers has a serious crush on me! (Secretly between us fellow felines, if he were a cat, I’d be so into him, but since he’s not, I don’t want to encourage him…)


Learn more about Stanley and Katrina at their OFFICIAL website: http://www.stanleyandkatrina.com 


Also, don’t forget to subscribe to their YouTube Channel, where you can find their Paw-some “Word of the Week” video series, in fact your lit. rat did one with Guido and Bonnie-


Finally, check out the fan book trailer we made to help spread the Good Word on Stanley and Katrina’s books- 



Oh ONE LAST THING: Stanley and Katrina

are having a Rafflecopter giveaway you can

enter below-


a Rafflecopter giveaway





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


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).