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!





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.


 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-




Check out my fan book trailer for “FETCH”

Here’s the OFFICIAL trailer for








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-



“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.

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!













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!

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. 



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-



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.








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-







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.





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-





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!)




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-


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? 


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.

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)





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” 


Talking Animal Addicts