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.”




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…




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!





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: 

He’s Also on Facebook!



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:



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:

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.

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”





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. 


(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


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.