Kickstarter Success Stories That Went The Distance

I hope those of you who’ve been loyal to T.A.A. through it’s various ups and downs, and longer than I’d like downtime, will spread the word of FETCH (No, not the PBS Kids show, though I’d think Ruff would support it, despite the book “borrowing” his show’s name…)

For those of you who need further convincing, here are a few Kickstarter success stories that tie into what this site’s all about.

One of the issues I had with my early attempt at a welcome video for T.A.A. was no one knew what an “Animal Fantasy Activist” was. In truth, I didn’t know how to explain it at the time, but perhaps these successfully funded Kickstarter projects best shows the meaning of that term I coined-


Pilot Tails

“Pilot Tails Flying Adventures for Kids!” 

by Michael Badger

If you’ve got kids addicted to the Disney Jr. show “Octonaunts” they’ll likely find lots to love in this charming book.

Only as the title implies, these adventures take to the wild blue yonder, as opposed to the seven seas of Earth. Unlike the other books highlighted, this book needed a bit more But they BIG ambitions for the funds they asked for. In addition to the book proper with quality illustrations that rival any traditionally published book you can name, the funds would also cover an iPad app that ties into the book.


Pilot Tails (APP)



Rhoda's Ocean


“Rhoda’s Ocean”

Written and illustrated by Betty Abbott Sheinis

To think this GORGEOUS book was a diamond in the rough that never saw publication in the author’s lifetime, but managed to see the light of day thanks in part to the Kickstarter platform, and in LARGE part by the project’s creator, Annette James who discovered this buried gem hidden in an antique bed of all places, and those of you who know my tastes in books can understand how moved I was by the story behind the book, and I WILL be getting a copy and review it soon. (If you’re interested in the book, it’s available now,  just click the cover image to read an except and buy it yourself!)



Larry and Friends

“Larry and Friends”

by Nat Jaspar and Carla Torres


For those of us in publishing (Myself included), the persistent lack of genuine, non-stereotypical diversity in books at large is just as concerning as it was half a century ago, but while (At the time I type these words) we may be stuck in neutral at best right now, we HAVE made some strides, and this book is a prime example.

I was immediately drawn in by the art style of this book. After seeing the pitch video, I can see why this book got the funding needed, I’ll keep you posted when it’s available.

There is one thing all these Kickstarter projects have in common, apart from the fact they met the funding goals to see to project to completion and in readers hands, they came from authors, illustrators, or a combo of the two who in some cases (As noted in the pitch videos) they had near final versions of the book, and needed help earning funds to print, one of the biggest hurdles for any indie author is getting the needed art (If you are not the illustrator) alongside printing costs, ISBN numbers if the book will be available in print (Though you will require an ISBN to sell in some major ebook retailers like Apple’s iBookstore), and this is also part of why it will be a long time before I can create such a Kickstarter project of  my own.

My debut took 10 YEARS of effort and time on my part, and I will need to do a LOT of careful thought and planning to propose a project that has the best chance of being approved, and I’ve mapped out as much of the expenses as possible. It’s never easy to ask for money, even from people you know and who love you, never mind strangers who are connected by a shared love of the project you’re proposing.

Many authors I know (Personally or from their work online) don’t have this problem, or at least can hide it well, this will be HARD for me, as I’m not an entrepreneur at heart.

Note that I said “This WILL be hard for me.” as I recognize there are projects that I know I’m better off taking the indie route. Not just for creative control, but also because since starting T.A.A. three years ago, I slowly started to see I CAN do what these authors and illustrators I highlighted today. It will take me longer, but it is in reach, and I have to remind myself that often.

Though my  debut middle grade novel Gabriel will be published by a publisher, I’m working on early PR and making connections with people who will support the book as I have more launch details to share and as publication nears.

Part of my extended absences from the blog this summer was spent planning out a strategy. It’s not totally worked out yet, but the bones are coming together.

While I still want to get an agent and work with more traditional publishers (Ideally ones that offer some kind of advance to help PR and the like on my end) my views on self-publishing  in general have changed. It can lead to great things when done right, and we all know “doing it right” in this business doesn’t come cheap. Or happens overnight (That said, not all authors have DECADES between projects either…)

But until I have something at the level these projects were at, the least I can do is support the projects I find that I believe are good and sound, that speak to me as any book already out there, and that I get to review and share with you on this blog.

I was not afraid to put my money where my heart is. “Fetch” won’t be the first book project I back with either my money or efforts to get it in the hands of readers, and it will NOT be the last. IF you can’t spare the money, spare some time and spread the word

(If you shout it out on Twitter, please use the hastag #taacares so people know you learned of the project through this site)

Only 15 days are left before the donation period ends, and Adam has yet to even reach HALF his funding goal. I DON’T want to see this book go the way of Amelia Earhart. I want to see it soar like a proud eagle in flight.

Finally, keep in mind that I’ve got a cool giveaway in conjunction my “Countdown to Fund FETCH”, if you donated to the project, email me at taury-AT Symbol-, write

“T.A.A. CARES (FETCH)” in the subject line, and tell me who your favorite dog character is. (Books, comics, movies, television, etc. Please mention series and author or creator)

If you you tweet about this project, please use the hashtag “#taacares” so people know you learned of the project through this site.

*If the project is funded, I’ll select three winners at random who will win one of the following-

1 Grand Prize Winner will receive  A signed copy of the “FETCH” + a signed edition of my upcoming debut novel, GABRIEL (Pub. Date TBA) published by G8Press.

2 runners-up will win a signed copy of GABRIEL (pub. date: TBA)

(If you wish your copy to be personalized for you or who you may gift it to, let me know in your entry)

*NOTE: Prizes will only be awarded if the project is funded at the minimum amount.

Winners will be announced on the site, our Facebook page, ( and via Twitter (@TAA_Editor). DON’T send your contact information (Other than the email address, of course, which will never be shared) until I contact you. Contest ends September 21st, 2013, at Midnight, EST. (Eastern Standard Time) Due to shipping costs, I must limit the prizes to those in the U.S. (INCLUDING Hawaii and Alaska) and Canada.

Thanks in advance for those who donate, and even if you can’t spare the money, please spare some time and spread the word.

Next time,  I’ll take a break from convincing you to support FETCH and offer another installment in my new Weekly Readings segment.

Until then,

May the Fantastical Fauna be with you.







Last week, told the story of how I met a kindred spirit on Kickstarter, a site where authors and

other creative entrepreneurs to earn funds needed to create projects that might not otherwise

come to pass, the catch is that you must earn the minimum of the funds you request, so anyone

who uses Kickstarter needs to really budget out what the project you’re proposing.


You can earn more than the minimum, but you MUST meet the minimum target price you set or any



funds earned with return to their respective donors (Called “Backers” on Kickstarter).


The reason for this distinction is because Kickstarter isn’t a charity (As they say here) but a way for people to fund their dream projects, and in return for the funds and believe in the project, you give the backers incentives that are possible by funding the project in question. I was But there are countless other projects that need championing, and while

Given the niche of this site, I feel it’s important to support new voices that for whatever reason can’t be via traditional means. So, I’m launching an initiative that will shed light on projects I believe need to come to pass, and if money’s the only (or most glaring) barrier to entry-


I’ve wanted to do this for some time, and now’s the right time to start, and my first project being highlighted through T.A.A. CARES t is the prime example of what this site’s about. 

Learn more about the project (And incentive rewards should the project be funded) here:

And watch the pitch video below-

I know for many of you money’s tight, and I’m no different, but I also know how it feels to have the drive, passion, and perseverance to bring to a project, but lack of money or connections gets in the way. I often say to my writer friends that , as much as I want (and continue to search for) an agent for my long term career. But there are always some projects that I want full creative control over, and platforms like Kickstarter make it possible to get the money needed to pay our partners (Illustrators, cover designers, print costs, etc.) what they are worth, without mortgaging your place of residence (If you have that option…) to do it.

While I’m not ready to self-publish, I have nothing but respect (And some envy…) for those who are betting on their passion and perseverance, it’s not an easy thing to do, and our current economic issues (Global or individual) don’t help ease the pressure. I ask those of you who can donate, do so, and if you can, spread the word to those who can.

Donate funds before the project deemed “Failed” and I don’t want to see these free-wheeling canines stuck at the start line before they even start their engines.

Writers, share this blog post to anyone you know who sees in this project what I do, I ask parents and loyal readers to T.A.A. to do the same. If you choose to donate, please e-mail me at, write “T.A.A. CARES (FETCH)” in the subject line, and tell me who your favorite dog character is. (Books, comics, movies, television, etc. Please mention series and author or creator)

If you you tweet about this project, please use the hashtag “#taacares” so people know you learned of the project through this site.

*If the project is funded, I’ll select three winners at random who will win one of the following-

1 Grand Prize Winner will recieve: A signed copy of the “FETCH”  + a signed edition of my upcoming debut novel, GABRIEL (Pub. Date TBA) published by G8Press.

2 runners-up will win a signed copy of GABRIEL (pub. date: TBA)

 (If you wish your copy to be personalized for you or who you may gift it to, let me know in your entry)

*NOTE: Prizes will only be awarded if the project is funded at the minimum amount.

Winners will be announced on the site, Facebook ( and Twitter (@TAA_Editor). DON’T send your contact information (Other than the email address, of course, which will never be shared) until I contact you. Contest ends September 21st, 2013, at Midnight, EST. (Eastern Standard Time) Due to shipping costs, I must limit the prizes to those in the U.S. (INCLUDING Hawaii and Alaska) and Canada. 

Thanks in advance for those who donate, and even if you can’t spare the money, please spare some time and spread the word. 

UPDATE (9/19/13): You no longer have to donate to enter the giveaway!

Please click the link below for the updated giveaway rules-

Until next time,

May the Fantastical Fauna be with you.

How I met a Kindred Spirit On Kickstarter




For those of you unfamiliar with “Kickstarter” it’s part fundraiser, part social network, all about giving authors and other creative types the chance to turn their dream projects into reality.

Unlike ebay, though, your project has to be screened and approved by Kickstarter, so just like authors submitting manuscripts (or illustrators portfolios of their work) we can be rejected, and if we don’t earn the amount of money set as a benchmark, all money’s returned to their respective donors (Which Kickstarter calls “Backers”), so this isn’t an easy way to score funds, but it is a WAY, and it can be an added motivator to help authors committed to their work make connections with their backers, and lead to networking opportunities not possible before.

It’s essentially an ebay-style fundraiser service with a social network aspect, but unlike Facebook, you have to be a paying “Backer” to be part of the dialogue of a Kickstarter project. Minimum is 1.00 ($USD), but can be higher, and the more you can donate, the greater the rewards backers can earn. 

In terms of book projects, I’ve seen everything from signed editions (If and when the campaign earns it’s target amount), being mentioned in the acknowledgements, and for one project I will highlight next week (That’s nearing it’s final days and hope you’ll open your pocketbooks for along with me) you can even have your dog illustrated into the story!

 I connected with this author who had this cool Kickstarter campaign, sadly it was too late for me to donate, and she only raised half the the money she needed, but long story short (For once), I reached out to her and offered to help if I could, though she didn’t reach her goal on Kickstarter, she’s determined to make her picture book series happen, and her first book is available in limited quantities, and it’s GORGEOUS! Her illustrator reminds me of the late, great Fred Marcelino, and even though the campaign’s over, you’ve got to see the video while you still can, she did a good job on it, IMHO-

For those of you who are still “Social Networking” averse, THIS is a prime example of TRUE down-to-earth networking at work. I would NOT have known about Jennifer Carson or this charming book had I not leapt into Kickstarter, and while her Kickstarter campaign didn’t earn out, she and her illustrator are not giving up, and when this book comes to fruition, your literary rat will tell you about it.

In the meantime, I urge you to check out Kickstarter to see if there are projects you’d like to be a backer for. The best part about Kickstarter is that you can make a difference if earnings are met, even exceeded the target goal. You might even have the honor of one day saying “I helped this author get started” not just by donating your money, but also by saying (Even if not aloud) “You’re Enough.” Two words ANY person wants to hear in life, but especially when they do something that comes from their hearts, and are willing to put themselves out there above and beyond to do so.

While I couldn’t help Jennifer financially get this book off the ground, meeting a kindred spirit in terms of what we write and read, Kickstarter’s platform brought me to someone I’d otherwise might not know about, and her story among others I found browsing Kickstarter campaigns this summer reminds me why it’s so important to give back.

To learn more about Jennifer Carson-

Check out her interview the blog  for “Fiber College of Maine” (

Follow her on Twitter (@JenniferCarson)

Stay tuned next week for an important post on how you can contribute to another new voice in the world of animal fantasy, and what you can win (From me) if you do.

Until next time,

May the fantastic fauna be with you.


Weekly Readings

Weekly Readings 1


Today’s post will be semi-short today.

I’ve got a lot of do, but wanted to share a bit of what I’ve been reading amidst “Life Happens” moments. Keep in mind, I’ll likely review these in-depth, so these are only bullet points of books  you might want to read with or without your child-

I have been reading a LOT of picture books I want to review on T.A.A., and a few early readers, as well. I can’t write these books (YET) but they are are a joy to read-

I, Crocodile

I, Crocodile by Fred Marcellino

He’s one of the few illustrators I know of who mostly illustrated other authors books, and this is one of the few (If not only) book he wrote and illustrated. His art has a vintage feel without being hokey or saccharine. Humor here is dry yet cheeky, but not as subversive as Dahl or Sendak. Something in the middle.

That said, if your kids or students love Dahl or had the debate about Jon Klassen’s “I Want My Hat Back” about “if he or didn’t he” to a certain rabbit, they’ll love where this story ends. I personally found it a bit sadistic for my tastes, but it was true to the character, and I respect that.

Carousel Cat

Carousel Cat by Robert J. Blake


Sweet art and a brilliant love letter to Jersey Shore, YEARS before the recent damage of Hurricane Sandy.

This is a cat story even a devout dog-lover like me
(I’ve grown to like cats, too) can enjoy. Animals don’t talk here, but a fine story of how animals help us carry on in hard times.

I know one of the needs of some agents and editors are books about families struggling financially. There’s organic hints of that in the story that can be great talking points for parents and teachers to use for the pre/emergent readers up to second grade.

Wonderful illustrations, and it’s bit text heavy by today’s minimalist standards, but every word counts, in my opinion.


Wolves by Emily Gravett


I’ve seen this author everywhere but never read her until this book. If could write nonfiction, this book is a litmus test to how I’d do it. Facts presented in a non-sterile way.

The illustrations are abstract yet express the real world facts about wolves, in a fantastical way, the presentation is brilliant on two levels, both promoting libraries and early research skills for students, and I’m personally a sucker for vintage accents in a book.

For those of you with skiddish little ones (Not all kids have the the courage of Madeline early) this book has a dual ending, one more silly than factual, but both are well handled without either sounding patronizing.


Barnaby the Bedbug Detective

Barnaby the Bedbug Detective

Written by Catherine Sitter

Illustrated by Karen Sapp


Of course, I had to get a (domestic) dog story in there, and this is a great one, it’s loosely based on true events, and a different kind of career animal for readers to learn about.

While most career dogs known to kids are police dogs, fire dogs, and given our worldview these days, bomb-sniffing dog used in the military or national guard, this is one of the lesser known

Until recently, I always thought bedbugs were made up, but they’re real, and can be a big problem, even harder to detect than termites. It’s good dogs like Barnaby in real life that aid us in keeping them out of our home.

It’s also a charming story with non-preachy messages of adopting older dogs from shelters, seeing promise in others where some see only problems, and there’s a little “Leo the Late Bloomer” here as well.

That’s all for now. Until next time,

May the Fantastical Fauna be with you.


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.

Book Review: Geronimo Stilton – Lost Treasure of The Emerald Eye


Cover depicts, A freaked out passenger mouse, Geronimo Stilton and gutsy sister, Thea, riding double on a motorcycle down a narrow street,

“Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye”

One of the oldest debates in the history of literary criticism is the age old battle between storytelling and writing. For those of you who aren’t writers, this sounds whack, I know, but stay with me a sec.

Ask yourself this, “Have you ever read a book that you loved?”


Now ask yourself, “Can you remember specific aspects of how a book you love is written?”

If you can’t, you probably loved the story, even if the way it was written wasn’t significantly enhancing the experience.

As many a passionate writer will tell you, things can be nicely written, but not a story.

So, can’t the reverse be true?

Great stories with a strong voice can make up for less ambitious or elegant prose. 

(Note I didn’t say “bad.” While content is always subjective, typos, grammar snafus, and misspelled or misused words distract and get in the way of the experience, no matter how you define a good book) After all, think of some of the most popular books of the last decade-  

  • SkippyJon Jones (Picture Book)
  • Captain Underpants (Comic/Early Reader)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (MG)
  • Twilight (YA)

  What do all these books have in common? Aside from all being the first books in popular series, they let characters and storytelling trump HOW they were written, and “Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye” is first in a series of adventures starring a persnickety newspaper mouse, Geronimo Stilton, does just that as well.


I know, there’s adverbs, adjectives, and some books have the “Insert culture research” info-dumps. Oh my! (This first one doesn’t, though, the culture info dumps, I mean)


But here’s the thing, for years my love of this series was my dark secret, for all the reasons above, and it seemed like one of those WFH (Work For Hire) series that like “Goosebumps” and a lot of “The Babysitter’s Club” books were hired out, meaning more than one writer wrote them, and while I think these were all by the same author from Italy, it’s packaged here in the states like it’s WFH, but I’m not 100% sure either way. 

For some readers, this isn’t as big a deal (Though I know many picky readers in this regard), but as a writer trying to earn some street cred and respect with my own original work, I do have to work hard through my personal issues on this.

I know many writers start out writing work for hire books, and I respect that it’s not easy to write to a certain formula and in such a short amount of time.  (I’ll touch on that in detail in a future feature on T.A.A.)

Still, I finally swallowed my writer’s pride, let curiosity have its due, and purchased/read the one that started it all listed above.

Guess what?  I LOVED it!

And the rest is history.

I guess this is my “Nancy Drew” of sorts.

These are the books I would’ve read under the covers if they existed in my grade school youth. If I could write for this series I would. Yes, I love it THAT much. (If ANYONE from Scholastic wants to contact me about such an opportunity, please feel free!)

Plus, the art’s nice, and in COLOR, too often these types of books have black and white art, if any at all beyond the cover, and with respect to those of you with limited color vision, I love color!

I’ve read and own nearly all of the books in the main numbered series (There are also now spinoff series I haven’t yet explored), one of the graphic novels, all four “Kingdom of Fantasy” hardcover side stories, and most of the audiobooks from the first 25.  In other words, less “Old Yeller” or “Black Beauty” in terms of the prose, and more cartoonish in look and the story, but with more depth in terms of characterization than say something more one-note.

The first book in the series “The Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye” really sets up the kind of ride you’re in for in this series.

Apart from our persnickety but plucky and resourceful hero, his various family members, friends, rivals and every-rodent in between has as a more extensive supporting cast than most movies or television shows for readers in this age group. But not to worry, every book in the main numbered series (Outside hardcover stand alone Kingdom of Fantasy titles, which are good reads, too)have a visual mural photo in the pre-story pages of the most prominent secondary characters of the series, but if you become a fan like I have, it’s easier to keep them all straight, as they appear when relevant to the book at hand.

The three who appear most often are Geronimo’s sister Thea, nephew Benjamin, and his cousin (From you-know-where), aptly named “Trap.”

This first adventure finds Geronimo and his assorted trio of relatives in search of a lost treasure. Through various mishap and mayhem, they end up beached on a seemingly uninhabited island, and while you think you’ve heard this plot-line a zillions times before, I promise there’s nary an Indiana Jones or Gilligan’s Island/Lost cliche in sight.

Not even the now infamously obligatory “Boulder Chase” scene. While younger readers may not be familiar with certain “Rodent Re-imagined” movie and television references, for older tweens or adults reading the book to, or with their kids, can be great conversation starters.

In my opinion, though, they avoid making it sound annoyingly “dated.” Besides, there’s always one kid in every family that’s into “retro” something, and I sure was one of those kids. (I knew about A-Track tapes and LP vinyl records when other kids my age didn’t, and knew about audio cassette tapes before Thirteen Reasons Why made them trendy again, so there!)

For those of you “Wimpy Kid” fans, there’s plenty hi-jinks, pranks, and comic situations. If you’re willing to invest a bit, the unabridged audiobook is a great alternative if your reluctant reader might stumble at the more complex sentence structures reading on the page, as it’s more ambitious in terms of the writing than say, “Judy Moody” or “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

The audiobooks of the first 10 books feature music and sound effects, feeling like an old-fashioned radio drama (Don’t know what I mean? Ask you parents/grandparents, or just Google it), but of course, way better audio quality. So, what makes this series so compelling in spite of all the “rules” to the contrary? Three key factors: Characters, Insider Rewards, Takes “Unlikely” Risks.

Let’s look at these in more detail-  


On the surface, you’d think this book would be overly didactic and predictable, and admittedly, in the wrong hands-er paws, it could very well by the case.

When you’re going into the first book of a series, this can often be the case, but this book manages to avoid a lot of those pitfalls by giving twists on the characters that could too easily be the stereotypes most writers try hard to avoid.

Our hero, despite being a persnickety worrywart, is also patient and resourceful, and dealing with his daredevil kid sister and a greedy narcissistic cousin, you need all the patience you can get, and the cute charmer kid doesn’t come of as too good to be true, and while his role here is minor, he plays more clever and bigger roles in future books in the series.

Daredevil sis can show her vulnerability, without taking away from her extroverted nature, and while not ashamed of being plucky and a little tomboyish, isn’t averse to her feminine side.


On that note, worrywart dads of daughters beware, she’s a bit of a flirt, but these being kid’s books, it only goes as far as blown kisses and mild lovey-dove talk, but nothing that would send “typical boys” screaming away from this or other books (You might want to skip #10 if your boys are still in the “Not into Girls” stage. Good book, but you have to be open to goofy first love to enjoy it The Valentine’s Day books are more funny than lovey-dovey)

Even the cousin from you-know-where has his good points and cool moments, surprising our hero almost a bit more than the readers, proving that people (Or mice in this case) are more than we see on the surface, if only for a moment…

If you’re familiar with Charles Schultz’s Peanuts characters, there’s a similar vibe in terms of how the Stilton family’s dynamics in particular work, often complicating, and bringing much of the humor to the plot at hand.

The Stiltons aren’t “The Brady Bunch” nor  “The Simpsons” but rather something

in-between, and one thing you learn quickly in this book, long before our ragtag rodent crew sets out to sea.

Though Geronimo’s not as down on his luck, or indecisive as Charlie Brown, and good at what he does, running a newspaper, he does makes his share of mistakes,

(Being late for work, soft-spoken to a fault, and a bit clumsy at times) 

Thea’s not as snarky as Lucy, and while she often likes to tease her brother’s brainy introvert ways, she often plots and schemes for Geronimo’s benefit, even if it often causes him more stress than assistance. There’s hints of Peppermint Patty here, too, as she and Trap (Like how Peppermint Patty always calls Charlie Brown “Chuck”) refers to Geronimo by various nicknames he REALLY cannot stand.

(As someone whose name is constantly mispronounced, I feel for you, Geronimo)


Benjamin could arguably be similar to Linus (minus dependence on a security blanket) but not as introspective, but proof that little kids can make a big difference, something you’ll see in later books more than this first one.A nice non-preachy benefit if older kids read it to their younger siblings.

While you could argue there’s some commonality between Trap and Lucy in personality (There’s a lot of “Pulling the Football” moments between Geronimo and Trap), not even Ms. Van Pelt can defuse this one, for unlike Charlie Brown’s more predictable patterns where she knows every possible button to push at her leisure, Trap’s too crazy to call or calculate.

“A real character” as Geronimo himself says in this book. Obnoxious one minute and selfless the next, in that sense, Trap is more like what Snoopy is to Lucy, though that might be pushing it in relation to Geronimo and Trap’s “Opposites Retract” dynamics, which actually describes Trap and Thea dynamics dead on, but you get the point. (I hope…)

While Geronimo often unjustly gets the “blockhead” treatment from his own family (Except from his nephew, Benjamin), they love him a lot, and speaking as someone who’s the odd one out in his own family, I can both relate/commiserate, and feel envy at the same time.  


Insider Rewards

Unlike Harry Potter or Percy Jackson where there’s a clear end point and thus, a  smaller number of books, this series is a LONG one, at this point we’re up to 55 books in the main series, plus three spin-off series focusing on secondary and supporting characters.

But unlike other open-ended series, this one rewards it’s longtime readers with referencing previous books (relevant to the current story of the book you’re reading), bringing back various characters of the secondary, and supporting cast, as needed (If you’re going to have a supporting cast as “Mega-huge” as Geronimo’s fridge, which I’d LOVE to have in my future home, you may as well give them layers that can be peeled back with every appearance).


While some books have the “characters that don’t retain what they learn” issue (A real pet peeve of mine), for the most part, you get the feeling there is a defined, well-scoped world.

But as zany as some books in the series are, as the reader I feel there’s a level of consistency, without being so weighed down by the world’s rules that something fresh can’t jump out, while at the same time, not breaking those rules of the world. 

Because there’s not a strictly linear storyline, readers can really read any book in the series without feeling lost. The adventures are self-contained.

BUT, loyal readers of the series are rewarded with in-jokes and references from earlier books, that are relevant to the current book you’re reading, enriching the overall experience.

You genuinely feel you know a little more about Geronimo and his world each time, even though the books don’t follow a linear path. That’s hard to pull off, especially for a series boasting 50+ books (and GROWING), at the time this review is being written.  


Takes Unlikely Risks


Now this is where the proverbial rubber meets the road.

Though more subtle in this first book, having read most of the other books in the main series, I can assure you there’s more depth to the characters than what the back of the book blurb might indicate.

As funny and approachable as the story is, it’s also not afraid to get emotional, and don’t worry, I don’t mean the overly saccharine melodrama kind of emotional, I mean the “Gets you right here…” kind of emotion and heart any book needs.


Well, some books more than others…

One thing I often notice with entertainment from Europe or Japan is how sophisticated the characters and humor can be compared to what you often see in the U.S.  

Heck, there are some Canadian programs that are more sophisticated than the average U.S. equivalents,

I‘m not knocking America here (We have our gems, too,of course), but I do see a difference, something I’ll talk about in more detail on the blog at a later time.

As for how this relates to my review of the book in question, let me give you a key example-  

Near the climax (Spoiler free example), Trap says-

“It’s bad enough to brought me to the wrong island, but did you have to bring me to a tourist trap?!”

It’s so funny when you figure out that he’s using the term “tourist trap” to describe the situation at that point in the story, not just because of his name, but also at the same time not get how he himself would fit that description a few chapters before.

It’s like how the bullies in our lives don’t see their bullying you or others for what it is.

But to end this section on a positive note, Trap gives Geronimo an idea that will become one of the key hallmarks of the series, which I won’t spoil here, but while it’s not surprising, it’s another subtle way of avoiding the “annoying cousin” cliche, in that it gave our humble hero the idea he might not have thought of on his own.

Something writers, and any other entrepreneur for that matter, can relate to. Something you need to read (or listen to the unabridged audiobook version) to appreciate.


Climax and Verdict


One thing writers always hear is some variant of “Never talk down to your audience.”

Let me tell you,  one of the WORST things you can do as a writer (Apart from boring the people you want to engage)is insult a reader’s intelligence. This is one of the FEW absolute truisms all writers should live and work by.


While this is one series I follow that makes up for less ambitious writing with voice and storytelling, it also takes brave risks that avoids a lot of the formula inherent in more open-ended series.

Anyone who loves well-defined characters, bold humor, has a sibling or siblings, and perhaps a cousin or two from you-know-where, you’ll find a friend and inspiration in Geronimo Stilton.

If I’ve hooked you into buying this book, please support T.A.A. by clicking the affiliate link cover for the book above.

Or check it out at your local or school library. Support them so they can stick around to support you or someone you love when you need it most.

Also, check out the official website at the link below-

When is a “Great Story” NOT about The Writing (Part III: Books I LOVE for the “Story” but the writing’s NOT bad!)

Illustration from 1819 edition of
Illustration from 1819 edition of “The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog”
NOTE: We at T..A.A. don’t promote or endorse smoking. 
(Still, it fits, and it’s funny!)-Taurean Watkins, Editor-in-Chief, Founder and literary rat of  Talking Animal Addicts (T.A.A.)


If you haven’t read part 1, click here!

If you haven’t read part 2, click here!


Hi All!

I had a nice break, and a better than normal Mother’s Day, and a restful birthday yesterday, and it’s great to be back at T.A.A. again.



In part 2 of my series on Storytelling, I was honored that fellow middle grade author, Janice Hardy, was kind to let me share some of her points on storytelling that we discussed in private this time last year, little did she or I know at the time it would be great fodder for a more broad conversation, and if you’re a brave reader of moral-bending fiction, check out her “Healing Wars” Trilogy at:


Today, I’ll share some of my own favorite books that while may not have the level of writing I personally strive toward, are still fun stories, and don’t worry, just because these books excel at story over prose, it’s not “bad” from a technical standpoint.


In other words, no out of place punctuation or nonsensical tense shifts, at least none I could read and pick up on.


Before I go into my picks, here’s another nugget of wisdom Janice gave me in the vein of part 2-


“I think to read like a reader you have to pay attention to what you love about the stories that isn’t about the writing. Focus on the parts that keep you up at night and make you recommend a book to everyone you know. If you can identify those aspects, and then get them into your own work (or read your own work with those ideas in mind), then there’s a good chance the book will become a more reader-friendly book overall.”


Again, I agree with Janice, but that said, I know from personal experience this is not easy to re-learn if you’ve been writing a LONG time, because writers really do read differently than readers (Who don’t write to publish) do, and because of this, it took me a LONG time to get back in touch with what she meant.


I still struggle here, but it’s not the “esoteric fortune cookie babble” it sounded to me when I first read it last year.


With those points above in mind, let’s get to it-


Remember, I’m not an agent or trained editor, so your millage may vary, but hey, if I thought the books were boring (Minor flaws and preference aside) I wouldn’t recommend it here.



Taurean’s Top 3 Book Recommendations for books where “Story Trumps Prose”

(In no particular order)


“The Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye” by Geronimo Stilton

I’ve kept my love of this series a secret for years; this was my guilty pleasure, my “Wimpy Kid” if you will. But of the many books I’ve read and loved in recent years, this is by far the most obvious example for me where character and story rise above the writing, that said, it’s not horridly written, even though the high use of adverbs in dialogue tags irks me a little.


While I can’t recommend this series to reluctant readers like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” with certain words and sentence structures more challenging compared to the aforementioned series, this is a great series to recommend readers who think animal stories for this age group are limited to Shiloh or Charlotte’s Web, and while both are fine books, tug at the heartstrings more than the need for a fast paced read.


That said, if you’re willing to invest in the audiobooks, they’re well produced and engage like those ‘ol school radio plays of yesteryear. (I have so much more to say about this book, but you’ll have to wait for my review in the near future.) But moving on-



“A Summer in the South” by James Marshall

A charming mystery story that’s almost more about the zany antics than the mystery, though that’s there, too. How this guy make simplicity not read boring is beyond me, and more power to him.


“Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat” by Lynne Jonell

This is a bit of a misfit pick in terms of the context of “Story trumps writing” books, because I do this is smartly written, but it’s not flowery, but it’s really the cheeky wit (Particularly of the Rat in this book) and Dahl-esque story that you remember most. With quirky illustrations by Jonathan Bean to round it off.


There you go, three books I love where story trumps the writing, but the writing still isn’t horrid, in my opinion.


Next time, my series on Storytelling continues with more authors sharing their thoughts on this often debated and dividing subject, what they did for their books, and more.


Please share your thought in the comments below. It’s great to hear from you, and now that I’m on WordPress, if you avoided commenting during my Blogger days because you hated entering those Caiaphas (I do too, believe me), you don’t have to deal with that anymore.


Special Thanks to Janice Hardy for allowing use of her opinions in this blog post.

Moving On, Moving Forward


 Kitawaki_Quo_vadis (2)

-APRIL 28TH, 2013-

Moving On, Moving Forward

Hi All,


After three years on Blogger, I’ve made the leap to self-hosted WordPress-

(NOTE: You can’t use “www” before my url right now as it won’t work, I don’t know why, but I’ll fix that as soon as I can…)

Thanks to those of you who supported me behind the scenes during my blogging hiatus, and while it will some time before I have regular blog updates again, I am working on new posts and other content that I’ll do my best to be sure it was worth the wait.

Despite all the recent outcry on other blogs saying “Blogging’s irrelevant to writers in 2013” I don’t share that view.

I blog because I saw, and still see, a GAP in my niche being underrepresented, and outright misunderstood. Despite stumbles on my part in the past, I will continue to rep that niche to the best of my ability.

I’ve also decided that T.A.A. going forward will be less about my writing from the career side, and more of a reader-friendly environment.

Unlike many writers I admire/respect, I no longer feel comfortable mixing art and commerce on T.A.A. I will eventually have my author site up to handle that side of things.

I’ll have it launched as soon as I can. From now on, I’m just going to share the variety of this misunderstood genre, and hope we can finally end the stigma, or at least put it in its place.

After all, even sexy vamps, YA books in general, and death-happy dystopian tales used to be the “Kiss of Death” as far as NY publishing was concerned, and now readers can’t enough, even if agents and editors feel the exact opposite, LOL.

For those of you born AFTER the year 1987-2000, trust me, the hot genres and authors today had their axes to grind when paranormal fiction in general, even without XXX romance, or YA fiction, EVEN romance free, was as anti-receptive that you can can without being ethically shunned.

I’ll still share some writerly stuff in my “Letters From the Editor” feature, and when my publications increase, you will hear about them on T.A.A., but I’m going to bring T.A.A. back to what I really meant it to be-


A blog about spreading the message that the variety of animal fantasy BEYOND preschool land is no less REAL and VALID than the countless flavors of paranormal romance and dystopian fiction that (At the time of I began writing this e-post, April 27th, 2013) is now.


My blogger home for T.A.A. will remain up until the reestablishment on my WordPress site, as some features and posts are up yet. Those who have this blog bookmarked, please change to the new url above. Thanks for your patience.


Until next time, on my new place of residence on the web-



-Your sometimes grumpy, still hopeful, and always persistant, Literary Rat