Weekly Readings XX

Weekly Readings 20 Banner - Talking Animal Addicts V2 - MINI

Welcome one and all to another edition of Weekly Readings!


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 an otter’s intergalactic adventures, a boy who dares to be himself (dress and all), and beauty queen drama-Dino style!


Otter in Space (@i_am_otter)

by Sam Garton (@SamuelGarton)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

(An Imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Pub. Date: May 5th, 2015


While on a trip to the museum, Otter becomes enthralled, (and just so you know, Otter [she comes around here sometimes, and I’m honored], many awesome paintings are made today, post the invention of crayons, just saying…)

But once at the space exhibit, Otter had discovered her newest passion: Space!


In particular, a fascination with the moon, and while scoring some stellar souvenirs from the museum’s gift shop, she was unable to get a commemorative moon rock.

Of course, Otter doesn’t give up, and after AGES of deep thought, she has a notion: Why not just snag the real deal?


So, with Teddy in tow, Otter begin preparations for her lunar mission…


Sam Garton’s illustrations have this warmth and charm about them that ground you in the world.


You always feel Otter’s “Always on the Move” spirit on every page.


Like in her debut book, Otter tells her story to us, first person POV is rarely used in picture books given it can read awkward;y when the reader is most often a parent or other adult, but like Eloise, it just works, and really, who than Otter herself better to tell us *“Pretty Much” exactly how it happened.

(*Bonus Points if you can guess in the comments what show I’m referencing. Hint, it involves pink hair and “Thinking Big.”) 

It’s no secret T.A.A. LOVES Otter, not just your lit. rat, but our ever growing fantastic fauna team, especially my swine-feline duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck (from “Swinebert & Dempsey“), here’s what they had to say- 


Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)

Swinebert Glockchester

Yo Chicks and Chickies!

Dempsey and I are big fans of Otter, before we knew of her first book’s release, we met her on Twitter (We’re they’re, too, via @Swinebert_and_D) ,

and from there it’s been history in the making… I’m happy to report Otter’s new book is just as awesome as the first! It also reawakened memories of playing astronaut as a young piglet. I dreamed of being the first pig in space.

I didn’t achieve that dream, but I hope I live to see who will be the first pig in space, and despite certain propaganda on the web stating otherwise, we’ve yet to have pigs in space, may that change someday.

If I hear about the first otter in space, I’ll be sure to let my pal, Otter, know. (*Wink*) 



My nephew Trug is a big fan of Otter, too, in fact, he had a MAJOR crush on her, but after bravely sharing his love letter to Otter (and the world), she turned him down, but he’s feeling a lot better about it now. 






Dempsey Woyzeck

I have two nieces who LOVE Otter as much as S.B. and I do, and thanks to my knowing her (if only virtually) I’ve been dubbed the

“Cool Uncle.”




Something my brother Langley,

is super jealous of. (Cackles Evilly….)

Just kidding, Langley, you know we love you!





I Am Otter

(Cover For “I Am Otter” by Sam Garton)

Otter’s first book, “I Am Otter” was one of T.A.A.’s first “Most Anticipated Reads” in 2014, our inaugural year.

“Otter in Space” was among our “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015″ , and has proven worthy of this honor. Otter is someone I’m glad to know,

both on Twitter, and on my bookshelf.


Check Out “What The ‘Critters’ Say” About “Otter In Space”

Check Out The

OFFICIAL Trailer –


Jacob's New Dress

Jacob’s New Dress

Written by Sarah and Ian Hoffman


Illustrated by Chris Case

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company


Pub. Date: March 1st, 2014

Jacob, like many kids loves to play pretend, and dress-up, being someone else for a time.

What set Jacob apart is that instead of pretending to be dinosaurs, dragons or superheroes, he liked to play princesses, something fellow classmate Christopher (a “typical boy”) doesn’t get, and when kids don’t get something, it’s grounds for ridicule.


Luckily for Jacob, his friend and fellow classmate Lily gets him, and at home, he could fully be himself, dress and all.


But even when Jacob wasn’t playing the princess, he felt more free in a dress than typical boyish wear.


Before I go any further, I want to commend co-authors Sarah and Ian Hoffman for having both courage and the conviction to tell this story, especially as it derived from personal experiences with their son.


Illustrator Chris Case really gave the visuals in this book a raw vibrancy that I’m always a fan of book covers that show off the most unique or dare I say, controversial aspects front and center.


When I first saw the cover last year I thought, “Work it, Jacob, this is your truth, own it!”

We need more boys like Jacob, to be themselves unapologetically, whatever that looks like for any of us.


“What the ‘Critters’ Say”

about “Jacob’s New Dress”




Tiara Saurus Rex

By Brianna Caplan Sayres (@BriannaSayres)

Illustrated by Mike Boldt (@MikeBoldt)

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books


Pub. Date: Feb 17th, 2015



The Literary Rat has seen many genre-bending masterpieces in his day.

Everything from heroic weasels, to a wolf raised by rabbits, and canine crooks turned cooks, but of all the books I read last year, “Tiara Saurus Rex” easily stands out among them.


Just like “Jacob’s New Dress”, “Tiara Saurus Rex” has a twist, a beauty pageant (a classic storytelling device among girls) starring dinosaurs, often depicted as a boy-centric obsession.


I could imagine this is one of the “after hours” activities the offspring of  the “employed dinosaurs” and other prehistoric wildlife from “The Flintstones” might have.


Well, I couldn’t see Dino stomping (Or in his case, SPRINTING) on the catwalk, but him being a family pet versus a working critter, that’s understandable…


Among the many hopefuls, Tina (the T-Rex diva glamming it up on the cover) is the most confident she’ll win it all, and without spoiling the ending, let’s just say Tina’s got some stiff competition, and through it all, just might make a new friend instead of a bitter rival.


Forget shows like “Toddlers in Tiaras” or “Dance Moms” for a moment.


Pageants don’t have to be vicious war zones anymore than little league has to be a precursor to your child’s MLB prospects. Nor should it be.


With all due respect to serious young athletes who want to go pro, some of us just want to have fun and be fairly fit, okay?


I love that this book takes cues from child-centric pageants, and certainly influences of the iconic “Miss America” pageant sneak their way in, but retrofitted for the starlets-in-training, and  Mike Boldt’s illustrations uses a splendid color palette that’s less “pinky” than you might suspect.


While I personally don’t have issues with the color pink in general (it’s my second favorite color after red), I know it can be a “touchy subject” for some, wherever you are on the gender spectrum, and I’ll just leave it at that.


“Tiara Saurus Rex” does for pageantry what “Dinosaur Train” does for the dino-lovers in general, and the sciences in particular, entertains and delights to the 10th power, and then some.


Speaking of Dinosaur Train, I’d think Shiny Pteranodon would ADORE this book if it existed in her era. (Yes I’ve seen the show, so I know her character fairly well, so there! LOL)

Check out the OFFICIAL Trailer For

“Tiara Saurus Rex”

That’s it for Weekly Readings.

Check us next time!

Panel By Panel (2nd Edition)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5


Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies!

Welcome to the second edition of “Panel by Panel” where my pal Dempsey and I chat about out one of our many passions-COMICS! (and graphic novels)


Dempsey: This week, S.B., myself and our friend (and podcast director/producer), Taurean J. Watkins (aka “The Literary Rat), review Steven Universe, not the show (though we definitely will get to that) but the comics based on said show-

Steven Universe #1-#5

Steven Universe: Vol. 1-5

Publisher: kaboom!

(from BOOM! Studios)




From Taurean J. Watkins 

[aka “The Literary Rat”] (@Taurean_Watkins


(Left, Taurean J. Watkins,  

Right,  Steven Univserse Banner)

I fell in love with “Steven Universe” since it debuted on Cartoon Network over a year ago.


For those out of the loop (esp. those of you gave up on CN YEARS ago, but need to check back in for this one if nothing else) it’s about a kid who is half-human and half-gem, “Gems” are otherworldy beings with human-like forms, and that’s all I can share on that front without spoiling the story for you.


The series follows the adventures of our titular character,  and three of the of the “Crystal Gems” who protect Earth from intergaltic threats (Thematically, a mix ofThe Secret Saturdays” and “The Fantastic Four“).


(Left, “The Secret Saturdays, Right, Fantastic Four)


Garnet, the strong sem-silent type.


Amethyst, the free-spirited/scrappy foodie, also the youngest of the three, and Pearl, the level-headed, logical and slightly over-protective “Mother Hen” of the group.


The fourth was Rose-Quartz, the former leader of the Crystal Gems, and Steven’s mother, who (again for story reasons I won’t spoil here) passed on her powers to Steven, who slowly begins to awaken them and learn where he fits within the Crystal Gems, who act as his guardians/mentors in differing ways, and the humans who live in small costal metropolis of Beach City.


It’s the kind of show I rarely see much anymore, and was plesantly surprised to find on Cartoon Network especially.


This is one of the rare departures in CN’s series roster that has an overarching plot it’s building toward, while also having entertaining side stories weaved in.


A contrast departure to current hit series like “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show” which are more episodic and situational in nature (like many of CN’s first original series like “Ed. Edd ‘n Eddy“, Dexter’s Labrotory and “The Powerpuff Girls“). 




(Top, Adventure Time Blu-Ray Seasons 1-5

Middle, Regular Show Blu-Ray Seasons 1-3

Bottom, “Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy, Dexter’s Labrotory,

The Powerpuff Girls”)



While there are plot throughlines in Adventure Time, they’re more convoluted (esp. from season 4 onward), open-ended, and move at a slower pace.



If you like an overarching storyline, that’s a little loose in how it’s told (versus a more tradtionally lineral tale) this is the show for you!


It’s got it all: Multi-demenstional characters. A world with rooted back story that’s shared bit by bit when relevant. Action, drama, comedy, romance, and ocasional improptu musical moments that don’t feel either annoying or overdone.


It also naturally has a diverse cast of characters

(both in terms of ethnicity, age, life stage and personality) without coming off fake or forced. 

In many ways “Steven Universe” is for Cartoon Network what “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

(and it’s sucessor, “The Legend of Korra”)

did on Nickelodeon, takes the world and its characters seriously (no matter how offbeat and quirky they may be), gives them respect, but still has fun with them along the way.   

Avatar and Korra

(Top, Avatar: The Last Airbender – Books 1-3,  

Bottom,  The Legend of Korra – Books 1-4)

I highly recommend it to viewers who want something with a more defined plot, that moves a fair bit faster. On that note…

Steven Universe #1-#5

When I heard back in Summer 2014 there’d be a comic series based on the show, I was really skeptical, as these adaptations can go horribly wrong, something us book nerds at T.A.A. know all too well (RE: Books adapted to movies)

But I’m happy to say that for the first five volumes in, the team at kaboom!/BOOM! Studios have blown me away!


They nail the characters on all points, the dialogue, their mannerisms, and especially important for this series, the sizable supporting cast doesn’t get short-changed while centering on our gem-tastic quartet.


The bits with Steven and Lion in volumes 2 and 5 are especially touching/hilarious (for PEANUTS fans, think of the scenes with Lucy and Snoopy and you get an idea of what I mean).


I also love how they reference specific elements or episodes of the show without ailenating newcomers, but still reward long-time “Steventhusiasts” such as myself.


I’m also impressed how they use varying illustration styles throughout, often matching the tone of the story/vingette in each volume: Wispy and detailed for the warm fuzzy stuff, loose and super-stylized for the super-funny/quirky stuff, and something right in the middle when all the above are present in one story.


They all feel right and close in spirit to the art style in the series proper, but different enough so that it doesn’t have that generic feel like some comic adaptations of characters who aren’t native to the comics/graphic novel space.


Plus, I love the “Manga-Inspired” color spreads in-between the various stories in each volume. For those who LOVE the color spreads of “One Piece” and “Naruto” you’re in for a treat.


My only technical nitpick is that the speech bubbles can a bit hard to read, not so much the fonts they choose, but rather I think they can be a bit bigger to make for easier reading, but it’s a minor gripe for what is a stellar (so far) take on the world and characters.







Swinebert’s Thoughts

Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)


Like Taurean, Dempsey and I are BIG “Steven Universe” fans, and we too were skeptical of how the comics would fare, but after Taurean read/vouched for them, D and I  jumped in, and we agree,

they ROCK! The comics totally capture the heart of the show and run their own creative  stroke through it to stellar efffect. 





Dempsey’s Thoughts


To get a little metaphorical, the characters in Steven’s “Universe” have a lot of paralells with my family.


No, we’re not a team of warriors weilding anicent magic, but the family dynamics of the Woyzeck Clan and Steven’s nontradtional family certainly have overlap.


(Langley Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Older Brother)

My brother Langley and I fight a lot, kind of like Amethysyt and Peral, only Langley’s not as goofy and isn’t quite as food crazy as me and S.B. are, and I used to be more uptight similar to Pearl, but I’ve lightened up in recent years.

Dominic Woyzeck

(Dominic Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Dad)

My dad and I have differing personalites and tastes, but we both LOVE Steven Universe, and while we used to be distant, we’re as close as Steven and his dad, though mine’s a tad more relaible and as smart as he is kooky!

My favorite story was where Steven and his friend Connie are trying to raise money give Beach City a new library and how Pearl’s neatnik ways lead to hilarious results!

I also loved how Pearl and Connie had an exchange on how “realistic” a book character should be portrayed, Swinebert and I had such a debate once, thankfully I didn’t grill S.B. too much…(LOL!) 

Final Thoughts

Taurean: A worthy companion series for new and diehard fans.

Swinebert: Hardcore Steven Universe must not miss this worthy companion adapatation.

Dempsey: Stven Universe enters the comics world without a hitch. 



You Can Find Swinebert & Dempsey On Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

(Tweet them! They don’t bite…)






☚ They’re also on Facebook! 



T.A.A. on YouTube 2

They also contribute videos to

T.A.A.’s YouTube channel!

Check back next time for another edition of 
“Panel by Panel.”

Until then,

Keep reading, keep doodling,

and be careful not to get a papercut!


Oh, almost forgot-



(Steven Universe Intro –

Cartoon Network on YouTube)


Hey, we couldn’t feature something

“Steven Universe” related without a sing-along session!

Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 3

SD Critter Chat

This is part 3 of your lit. rat’s “Critter Chat” interview with swine-feline duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck, from T.A.A. FM’s upcoming podcast series, “Swinebert & Dempsey.


If you missed it or are new here, read part 1 of this interview. 


Check Our Part 2 of our interview


Okay, let’s jump back into it-


Taurean: Apart from our “Panel by Panel” column, what are some other things are you two working on for T.A.A.?




Swinebert: We’re also going to  do more video for T.A.A.’s YouTube channel, I’m doing a solo video series called “Swinebert Says” where I riff on my life in minerature. I do that on me and D’s Twitter account sometimes, and use #SwinebertSays, when I can fit it in! (LOL)


Dempsey: For me, I’m also doing a similar solo videos series called

“Life According To Dempsey” where like Swinebert, I also riff on my life, but also share bits about my family I don’t always share in other channels.

I sometimes do on Twitter and use #LifeAccordingToDempsey,

and like S.B., I can’t always fit that hash tag in, and mine’s WAY longer!

(Forepaw to Forehead)

Taurean: I can relate, I’m always battling length and engagement on Twitter, so I hear you both on that! What else are you working on?


(Swinebert & Dempsey’s “Hog Wild World Tour”

[TEASER] – Talking Animal Addicts on YouTube)

Swinebert: We’re also working on our first web series that chronicles our “World Tour Holiday” we went on last year, and I know the production of that’s been slow on your end, but we know it’ll be worth the wait.

Dempsey: Right you are, S.B., this was not only a fun trip, but is also changed our family (incl. our humans) in BIG ways, and we can’t wait to share the amazing life changes that occured because of our trip last summer.

Taurean: Thanks so much for taking time to chat with me.


Swinebert: Our pleasure, you’re as much a part of our family as you are our director/producer/PR guy.

Dempsey: Agreed, we look forward to sharing more with T.A.A. in the near future. 

Swinebert & Dempsey (Fancy 2-Shot) - FINAL

You can find Swinebert & Dempsey

on Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

(Tweet them! They don’t bite…)





 They’re also on Facebook! 



T.A.A. on YouTube 2

They also contribute videos to T.A.A.’s

YouTube channel!

Finally, you can check out the video they did as part of fellow pet entrepenuers,

Stanley & Katrina’s

“Word of the Week” series.

(Produced by your lit. rat)

Visit their website at: StanleyAndKatrina.com

They’re on Twitter, too, via @StanleyNKatrina

Until next time, may the fantastic fauna be with you.





Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 2

SD Critter Chat


This is part 2 of your lit. rat’s interview with swine-feline duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck, from T.A.A. FM’s upcoming podcast series, “Swinebert & Dempsey.


If you missed it or are new here, read part 1 of this interview. Okay, let’s jump back into it-

Taurean: Can you tell me about your fellow pet friends? What are they like?


Swinebert: Sure! We’ve got tons of them, but the ones we’re most tight with our next door neighbors: Clarke, a Jack-Russell mix (OBSESSED with aviation and motorcycles), and his feline roomies, Chuck and Lilac.

 Clark, Chuck and Lilac(Left, Clark, Right, Chuck and Lilac – Neighbors)

Swinebert: There are the squirrels who live in our  backyard. At first, we were enemies after the prize acorns that grow in the many oak trees in our backyard. We’ve long since resolved that and became friends.


It took them a lot longer to warm up to Dempsey, his being a cat and all, they worried he’d try to hunt them down, but 


THe Backlot Squirrels

 (The Backlot Squirrels – From Left to Right:

Little Wally, Mac, Hazel, and Filbert)


Swinebert: We also have plenty of family who live in White Oak Acres. While we of course consider our humans (and their kin) family, I’m talking about our non-human relations-


(Swinebert’s Nephew, Trug)

Swinebert: For me there’s my darling nephew, Trug, as our regulars know, and his folks: my brother, Ross, and my sis-in-law, Flair. My Ma, Pa and two kid sisters live back on the ranch where I was born. I video chat with them three times a week, and we visit each other when we can.


My Grand-Hog Wes lives at the ranch, too, but he’s always traveling, even at his age, he rarely slows down. I hope I’m that gutsy in my golden years!


Dempsey: For me, most of the Woyzeck clan live in various parts of the U.S. and Europe. I  have to give a nod to my Uncle Briggs, my dad’s adoptive hedgehog brother. He lives in another town, but visits us often.


Dominic Woyzeck and Briggs Woyzeck II

 (Left, Dominic, Dempsey’s Dad. Right, Dempsey’s Uncle Briggs)


On that note, my sister Nina’s also adopted, but she’s not a cat, or a hedgehog-she’s a goat.

The Woyzeck Family

(The Woyzeck  Family – From Left to Right: Dempsey, Langley, Nina, Dominic and Claire)

Dempsey: Here in White Oak Acres there’s my brother, Langley, kid sister Nina, and my parents, Dominic and Claire.

Uncle Doyle and Aunt Moxie

(Left, Uncle Doyle, Right, Aunt Moxie)

Dempsey: In Summer 2014, during me and S.B.’s world tour holiday, I got to meet my Uncle Doyle and Aunt Moxie. They live in London. 


Taurean: Who are some your other friends and neighbors, both human and non-human? How you meet? What are they like?



(Connect with Thorne Thistlestop 

via @TheBookishFox on Twitter!)

Swinebert: Well, you know of our friend, Thorne Thistlestop

(aka “The Bookish Fox”) who’s the librarian at “Bookmobile Sentinel.”  A traveling library in our neighborhood.


Taurean: Something I always love to ask duos like yourselves is, who are your favorite duos?


Swinebert: I’ve got a soft spot for the classics: Laurel and Hardy, Gilbert and Sullivan, Cagney and Lacey-Swinebert's Duos - FINAL TRANS

Swinebert: But of course we’ve got awesome duets today-

Joe and Sparky, Cork and Fuzz, Herman and Rosie, the list goes on!

Swinebert''s Duos 2

(Covers for “Joe and Spark Go To School”, “Cork and Fuzz: Spring Cleaning”, and Herman and Rosie)

Dempsey: The comic nerd in me would say “Batman and Robin” in particular the Tim Drake Robin, as he had the most bittersweet connection with the dark knight.

Dempsey's Duos - FINAL TRANS

Dempsey: Also, literary duos of note for me are: Tom Sawyer and Hukcleberry Finn”, “Holmes and Watson”, and “Phileas Fogg and Passepartout.”

Dempsey's Critter Chat Playlist - TRANS

(Covers for “The Essential Indigo Girls”, “The Essential Simon and Garfunkel”, “The Carpenters: Singles: 1969-1981)


Dempsey: But I also love musician duos such as “The Indigo Girls”,

“Simon and Garfunkel”, “Puffy AmiYumi” and “The Carpenters.”


Taurean: Of course at T.A.A. we LOVE books, but we’re lovers of television, too, what are some of your favorite shows?


Swinebert: Here’s the thing, Dempsey and I like a lot of the same shows, but we have our differing tastes. So, first we’ll start with shows one likes more than the other. That okay with you?


Taurean: Sure, please proceed.


Swinebert: Okay, I love shows that don’t just tickle my funny bone, but assaults it! Shows like Zatch Bell, various “Peanuts” Specials, and Kodocha.


I also love shows that have food at the center: Antique Bakery, Toriko, and I’m So PSYCHED that Yakitate Japan’s anime is coming stateside!


Dempsey : For my part I LOVE shows where you learn stuff, like “Modern Marvels.” and “Bill Nye The Science Guy” DVDs that’s both fun and informative. But I also love fun documenterary-style series stuff like “Unlikely Animal Friends.” If you think Swinebert and me are an “Odd Couple”, some of the unions formed between varting species are even more out there, and seriously, I’m surprised Disney hasn’t optioned some of these stories for film.


They need to do more of the cool animal films they had in the 60s, 80s and 90s again! Anway, my girfriend Celeine and I are both big fans of “Too Cute” and “Inuyasha.”

Taurean: So what are some shows you both like?

 Swinebert and Dempsey's Fave Shows - FINAL TRANS

Swinebert: We’re both fans of “Sailor Moon” 

(we’re both die hard romantics),

 Naurto, One Piece, Avatar: The Last Airbender

(the non-James Cameron version)

and “The Legend of Korra.”



Taurean: What books do you think would make a great film or animated series that don’t yet have one?


Swinebert:  Otter, like you, D and I are big fans, we first met Otter on Twitter  (@i_am_otter), and we’re looking forward to her two books in 2015!

Otter Trilogy

(Covers for “I Am Otter”, “Otter in Space”, and

“Otter Loves Halloween!”)

Swinebert: As I commented on in your review back in 2014, my nephew Trug had a NAJOR crush on her.


Even though Otter turned him down (and he’s still perplexed about why she offered instead to set him up with Giraffe…) I was nevertheless impressed with his courage. The game of love, despite how cynical, comical and downright trvial we portray it, is NOT a game for wimps.


Like most things in life, it takes the guts of an olympian athlete, the , and the blindless optomism that’s easier for kids like Trug (with so much life ahead of him) than folks like me, who while nowhere near my final years, sometimes have a harder time keeping the faith.


After all, I’ve had many crushes, a couple serious relationships, yet nothing steady at the moment.


As I said then and still stand by now, he’ll make the one who finally does look his way a happy mate.


For my own part, I still believe that I will find a sweetie sow who makes my piggy heart skip a beat, and feeling my trotters are strolling on clouds.


While it’s never fun to come up short: be that flunking a test you actually studied for, , or as in in Trug’s case “Not getting the girl’


Dempsey: “Varjak Paw” needs to be a movie, and an awesome one! I like how the book has the action of “Warriors” but does it’s own thing.


But I’d be open to an animated series if it was done right and they don’t stretch the story too thin in an episodic format. 


Apparently, it was optioned at one point,

but nothing came of it.


Someone PLEASE make this film (or animated series) before I’m out of my nine lives!

Varjak Paw Duet

(Covers for “Varjak Paw” and

“The Outlaw Varjak Paw”)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5

(Panel By Panel: with Swinebert & Dempsey Logo)

Taurean: As some T.A.A. fans know, we just launched “Panel by Panel” our comics/graphic novel column where you guys, and myself, review titles and discuses trends and opinions about this vibrant medium.

(Steven Universe Intro –

Cartoon Network on YouTube)

[The Literary Rat DARES you to sing-along…]

Taurean: I know on Facebook, you’ve professed your love for “Steven Universe.” I’m a fan, too, and I recently checked out the comics put out by “BOOM Studios“, and I was skeptical at first, but they blew me away!


Swinebert: We felt the same way at first, though we were excited when  we first learned about them last summer (before new episodes of the series resumed after a LONG break where we feared it was canceled) , we’ve been burned by bad comic versions of television shows or films we love.

But when we heard what you had to say about the comics, we gave them a go for ourselcves. As a fellow “Steventhusiast” we knew we could trust your vouching for them.


Steven Universe #1-#5

(Steven Universe: Comics #1-#5, BOOM Studios)

Dempsey: We’ve read the first 5 books and knew we had to review these for “Panel by Panel” so you’ll have to wait and see what we thought…


To Be Continued…



Check back next Sunday for part 3 of my chat with Swinebert & Dempsey…


You’ll learn more about what they’re planning just for T.A.A. fans! A sneak peak of what they’re working on next, and a whole lot more!

Panel by Panel with Swinebert & Dempsey (1st Edition)

Panel by Panel (with Swinebert and Dempsey 2.5.5

I’ve long wanted to do reviews of comics/graphic novels on T.A.A. for some time, but it didn’t fit in the “Weekly Readings” format I use for picture book reviews.


Why? Because while picture books are just as visual as comics and graphic novels, the latter requires A LOT MORE of its readers.


They’re also a lot longer than picture books, and can tell more complex plots and often include at least one subplot.


The blend of words and pictures is more sophisticated than it might first look.


The stories in the panels, and occasional full page spreads, can be as complex or as simple as their creator(s) desire, FAR more freedom than the average picture book.


Those who say comics aren’t “REAL READING” are WAY mistaken! 


At T.A.A. we want to champion the fun, the fantastical, and fauna, that gives those without a voice in “reality” a voice on T.A.A. and beyond!


Your lit. rat came to comics FAR LATER in his life, and my tastes are highly eclectic, but because I have a limited pool of knowledge…

I’ve enlisted my friends/podcasting partners

(and self-proclaimed comics connoisseurs), Swinebert & Dempsey (@Swinebert_and_D), to take part in our comics/graphic novel reviews on T.A.A.

For our first edition of “Panel by Panel”, Swinebert, Dempsey and I are reviewing our mutual Twitter buddy, Eric Orchard’s debut graphic novel-


Maddy Kettle

(Book 1): The Adventure of the Thimblewitch

by Eric Orchard (@inkybat)

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions 

Pub. Date: September 30th, 2014


Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies! Welcome to the first edition of “Panel by Panel” where my pal Dempsey and I chat about out one of our many passions-COMICS! (and graphic novels)


Dempsey: When our friend (and podcast director/producer), Taurean J. Watkins (aka “The Literary Rat), approached us to be on his reviews team, we knew we wanted to do comics, and it was unanimous what our first book would be…


 TJW Headshot V2

From “The Literary Rat”, Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins)

Something that I think has held some comics and graphic novels back is feeling they have to been in one camp versus another.


You either have to be “Funny” or “Dark and Brooding” but they can’t be both or a middle ground between the two.


Every reader wants something a bit different, and for me, generally speaking, I gravitate to books that can make me laugh, but they’re also not afraid to get serious when the story demands and deserves it.


Even when you’re writing about steampunk flying machines, witches and pipe-smoking critters, there is still a level of seriousness that the reader can take seriously in the context of the story’s world, the less it’s like ours, the more crucial that is.


Naruto and One Piece

(Naruto Vol. 5/Naruto Vol. 28, 

One Piece Vol. 11/One Piece Vol. 61)

Series like “Naruto” and “One Piece” are great examples of this.


Like the series above, this book has a very distinct art style, the mural-like compostion is apparent from the cover onward, the panels are clearly defined without looking sterile.

I love the use of shadow and light at play, and the soft rounded/angular look to the characters.

Even the clouds have their own distictive look, slightly reminiscent of those old school cloud trails via 1930s cartoons with a slight nod to the psychedelic 60s in terms of color shading. This mix of bright colors and mural-style presentation made the book feel modern yet retro in the good sense of the latter.

My road to reviewing “Maddy Kettle” is an intersting one.

Often writers debate amongst themselves if social media is worth their time, and if so, what platforms make sense for them.


I know many of my favorite authors simply aren’t interested in social media or simply find it too much of a time suck that would prevent them from writing actual books, they don’t even have a basic website (which I think even the most luddite folks need, but I’m not getting on that soapbox here! LOL).


But for me, I would likely never have learned about “Maddy Kettle” had I not been on Twitter and started connecting with artist-author Eric Orchard (@inkybat on Twitter), at least not as soon as I did.


There really is a skill to reading comics and graphic novels. Just as there is great skill in crafting them in the first place.


From developing the story, scripting the dialogue, drawing the art (or hiring the illustrator if the author’s not also the illustrator, the latter a lot more common in the comics/graphic novel space than picture books), and bringing it all together in the final book we buy.


As an author myself, I know firsthand that some of the hardest things to pull off, look the most effortless to lay readers, and from the cover onward, you can feel the care and attention that went into this book. 



Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)Swinebert’s Thoughts

Back in Fall 2014, when I got my hooves on “Maddy Kettle” I knew from the first few pages this was a book I’d always cherish, and the fact that it’s the first of a multi-volume series only has me jonesing for the next installment. 





Side Note: Since Dempsey and I first connected with artist/author Eric Orchard on Twitter, we often wondered where his *handle “Inkybat” came from, and after reading “Maddy Kettle”, we now know… 

[*Handle is another way of saying Nickname or Username.]

Anyway, back in late Summer 2014, my nephew Trug saw the cover (while D and I were conversing with the author on Twitter), he said, “Uncle Swinebert, to the bookstore, now!”

The book wasn’t out yet, but our pal and producer, Taurean J. Watkins, found the book on Net Galley, and after checking it out himself, he shared it with me and Dempsey, and I shared it with Trug, and here’s what he says-


“I’ve been in love since seeing the cover (back in August) I finally read it and it ROCKS! I’ll be on ‘Cloud Nine’ to get the next installment.”

-Trug Glockchester















 Dempsey’s Thoughts

I LOVE heroes, or in this case HEROINES, like Maddy for many reasons.

First, she LOVES books, as do I, be they fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and (obviously) comics and graphic novels.

Second, she’s not afraid to take charge of a situation, even if those closest to her (such her overprotective yet thoughtful parents, who when this story begins are Kangaroo rats, more on that later…) would rather her take a “wait and see” approach, which in real life is sometimes the best move, but doesn’t nesscarially make for thrilling storytelling.

Third, she drives her own story, BUT, is not above getting help along the way.

While first-time entrepenuers often shout “It’s all about getting off your duff and being your own boss” most of us need SOME help from others to either just get started on reaching our goals, or after we’ve reached our goals, keep it going if’s something that requires ongoing commitment versus a one-time push that requires less hands-on proddling. 


It’s like the difference between day camp versus a tradtional summer long camp.


Any leader worth his or her salt knows that while looking out for their team is essential, if you can’t also rely on the the team you’ve assembled or grew over time, you’re doing them and yourself a disserivce. 


Just how we need to remember that every viewer or reader is an actual living being , not merely a statistic, we need to treat our team members with the same level of respect we’d want as the team leader.


Maddy has those qualities that allow her to take the lead, but not be arrogant during times she needs info she can’t get on her own.


That’s something we bookish types tend to have in common, our curious thirst for knowledge allows us to not feel above seeking council from others.


Asking for help isn’t the same is asking somone to “do it for you” and that’s the kind of nuance we don’t teach kids enough or at all.


This book shows that difference in a non-preachy manner, as the best stories speak for themselves (though that doesn’t make marketing them any easier for some of us).


Final Thoughts

Taurean: A spunky steampunk fairy tale with NO shortage of charm and wit.

Swinebert: Maddy Kettle is Acorn-Tastically OUT OF THIS WORLD!

Dempsey: A crackerjack start of what looks to be a hearwarming yet gutsy series.


Check out our fan book trailer for

“Maddy Kettle (Book 1):

The Adventure of the Thimblewitch”


Check back next time for another edition of 
“Panel by Panel.”



Until then,

Keep reading,

keep doodling,

and be careful not to get a papercut!



UPDATE 3/31/15: T.A.A. recently learned Eric Orchard (creator of Maddy Kettle) is being hospitlized after a violent misunderstanding with police last night.



On behalf of Swinebert & Dempsey, and everyone at T.A.A., our thoughts and prayers go out to Eric and his family.



Taurean J. Watkins

Founder and “Literary Rat”

Talking Animal Addicts

Critter Chat with Swinebert & Dempsey Pt. 1

 SD Critter Chat

Today, you’re in for a treat, T.A.A. Fans!


Your lit. rat had the chance to interview two memebers of our growing extended family of in-house fantastic fauna.


Our favorite pig and cat duo, Swinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck, from T.A.A. FM’s upcoming podcast series, “Swinebert & Dempsey.


Taurean: It’s so great to finally have a proper interview with you guys.

Swinebert:  Agreed, we’ve put this off for too long!

Dempsey: Truly, we’re looking forward to this.

Taurean: Okay, let’s get started. How did you two meet?


Swinebert: Our humans are friends, and decided to move in together, so by association, me and Dempsey became roomies.


Dempsey: We didn’t get along at first. We’d met many times before we all started living together.

But being in the same house meant the things we couldn’t stand about each other stood out more than when we only saw each other every now and then.

Taurean: What kind of things bugged you about each other?

Swinebert: Dempsey seemed like such a stick in the mud! He kept to himself a lot, always had his snout in a book, and didn’t say much to me, and when he did, it was usually because something I did was driving him nuts!

Dempsey: Swinebert has a very dynamic and impactful personality, as you well know…

His Brooklyn accent threw me for a loop in the beginning. He always sounded “angry” to me at first. 

Now I know it’s just how he talks, and find it endearing.

Plus, once I knew how S.B. sounds when he’s actually angry, his normal speaking voice became all the more endearing to me.

Swinebert: Thanks, I think…

Taurean: What are your humans like? What do they do for a living?


Ferenc (Kid + Adult) 








 (Swinebert’s Human: Ferenc Süto, left youth, right grown-up)

Swinebert: My human’s Ferenc Süto. He works in a café by day and goes to night school four times a week. His dream is to one day open his own restaurant.


Dempsey: My human’s Vermont, Vernie for short. He works in a bookstore.  Like me he LOVES books!

He’s still not sure what he wants for a career, but his dream is to inspire teens who don’t read for fun, to learn that love for literature. He also works part-time at a pub once a week, usually a Friday.

Taurean: Dempsey, I know you’ve mentioned in videos recently you have a girlfriend. Mind sharing a bit about her?

Céline 2.5

 (Cèline, Dempsey’s Girlfriend)


Dempsey: Sure! Cèline and I have been together almost 8 years. We first met at a pet parents potluck my human Vernie threw trying to connect with more pet parents to find potential pet-sitters for Swinebert and me in case our usual one can’t make it.

Swinebert: Cèline’s human became our back up pet-sitter, and she’ brought Cèline to our place. Her and D clicked *claps hooves* like that. She was kind of freaked out by me at first.

Being a city cat she’d never met a studly hog such as myself up close before. But we’re buds now.

Taurean: That’s good to know. Have you got a sweetheart of your own, Swinebert?


Swinebert: Not at the moment, but I hope that’’’ will change someday.

Dempsey: I know it will, S.B. Hang in there. It took me several years before Cèline and I met.


To be continued…


Check back next Sunday for part 2 of my chat with Swinebert and Dempsey…

You’ll learn more about their friends and family, their city/town, White Oak Acres, and what they’re planning just for T.A.A. fans!


Until then, you can find them on Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

(Tweet them! They don’t bite…)





 They’re also on Facebook! 



T.A.A. on YouTube 2

They also contribute videos to T.A.A.’s

YouTube channel!

Finally, you can check out the video they did as part of fellow pet entrepenuers,

Stanley & Katrina’s

“Word of the Week” series.

(Produced by your lit. rat)

Visit their website at: StanleyAndKatrina.com

They’re on Twitter, too, via @StanleyNKatrina

Until next time, may the fantastic fauna be with you.





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.