Weekly Readings IV


It’s been longer than I intended, but it’s time for another edition of Weekly Readings!

For those new here, Weekly Readings is when your lit. rat reviews picture books I’ve read here and there. While T.A.A. focuses on animal stories, we do give humans their due now and again, and one of the books this week does feature one, more on that later…


by Elizabeth Rose Stanton (@PenspaperStudio)

Publisher: Paula Wiseman Books (An Imprint of Simon & Schuster)

Pub. Date: January 7th, 2014

In the spirit of Dumbo and the works of Todd Parr, along comes Henny, a chicken born with unusually long arms and hand-like wings!

A great “Okay to be Different” story without getting hokey about it. 

While I often lament the minimalist movement in picture books these days, this book makes great use of minimalism in both words and illustrations. Zeroing in on our heroine and how she makes the most of her unique physique features!

The picture book answer to R.J. Palacio’s middle grade novel “Wonder” with a fantastical fauna twist!

Elizabeth Rose Stanton: This is a debut to be proud of. 


Here Comes the Easter Cat




Written by Deborah Underwood (@underwoodwriter )

Illustrated by Claudia Rueda

Publisher: Dial

Pub. Date: January 28, 2014

It seems dogs aren’t the only rivals for this cat given the title of the latest from author Deborah Underwood, best known for The Quiet Book” and it’s companion “The Loud Book.” Despite the dominance of cats on YouTube and elsewhere, the “Cat” of this story wants fame that’s beyond the confines of the internet. Cat wants the Easter Bunny’s job, even though its a high maintenance ordeal (the ending will further hammer this home, which I won’t spoil here)

As a dog lover through and through, I found this book charming in my self-made feline rehabilitation program. (That’s a whole other blog post so I won’t elaborate here!) 

The spare and charming illustrations by Claudia Rueda don’t get too cute beyond the expected, and provides warmth and substance to orchestrate this tale that’s simple to read, but HARD to pull off as the author, as a newbie in the picture book landscape from an author standpoint, trust me, it’s harder to pull off than it is to read in this stellar book!

One thing I get concerned with picture books is can the author branch out of the books that made them well known. I haven’t yet read Debroah’s earlier books (yes, I’m in kidlit, but I was mostly focused on novels until couple years ago) but I can say this book safely avoids the dreaded sophomore slump as far as I’m concerned. 

Like Mo Willems “Pigeon” series, this book has great kid-participation appeal and gives pre-readers the chance to “Be the Parent” as the narrator is written like you’re speaking directly to Cat, and he responds via facial expressions and holding up various signs (think Wile E. Coyote of Looney Tunes fame)

For those of you who’ve seen the “Maisy” animated television series (based on the books by Lucy Cousins) you’ll see a similar vibe here, and it just so happens Deborah plans to have future adventures of Cat, and this rat can’t wait (this is the post-mouser era, folks, at least for some of us…)


Easter may be some time off (At the time this review is being written) but it never hurts to plan ahead with seasonal titles.




Written by Jenny Offill 

Illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (An imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

Pub. Date: March 11, 2014

I promsied some human love at the start of this review merry-go-round, and now I can deliver, for while Sparky the sloth, his story would not be possible without the girl who ordered him by mail and gave him his name. Like many kids REALLY wanted a pet, but her (seemingly workaholic) mother insists it has to be low-maintenance, and on a trip to the library, she learns about sloths, a furry creature (that’s the basis for many of the “Bigfoot” legends, that’s just my personal theory) that meets all the criteria-

-Low Maintenance 

-Doesn’t Need to be Walked

-Can’t cause various mischief

(Which one neighbor in the book appreciates)


While Sparky can’t do what other pets do, his girl learns to see the best in him in ways no one else can. When you give a dog treats, they’ll eat them all, but with Sparky, you share a cookie, meaning he gets half, than you get the other half!

While first person narration is common in YA and some middle grade fiction, it’s RARE to see first person narrator in a picture book when most often the reader is an adult (or an older tween or teen sibling), but Jenny pulls it off with noticeable skill. Not only from a technical standpoint, but also sounds like the kid narrate this story.

The impressionistic, clay/watercolor hybrid illustrations by Chris Appelhans bring quirky warmth to the experience, and if this style seems familiar for some reason, it might be because Chris did work on “Coraline” the 2009 film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name. 

Kids with nontraditional pets will get a kick out of Sparky, a sloth that despite being slower than turtles, and more sedate than your eccentric cousin thrice removed after Thanksgiving has more to offer than what the cover image above leads you believe. 

That’s it for Weekly Readings, check back next time!


NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: If my ramblings convinced you to buy one or more of the books mentioned above, please support T.A.A. by clicking on the affiliate cover images above or links within the review.


Picture Book Month 2013: The Finale: Part 2 – Future Releases


If you’re new to T.A.A. and missed our earlier posts during Picture Book Month 2013, check them out below- 


Picture Book Mania 

(Inaugural Post for T.A.A.’s participation in Picture Book Month 2013, and other more writer-centric events)

Picture Book Month Spotlight #1: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Picture Book Month – Author Spotlight #2: Katie Davis


Picture Book Month – Author Spotlight #3: Two Lost Lights of 2013

You can also find our spotlights and more picture book treats and tributes on our Pinterest board-



If you missed Part 1-

http://talkinganimaladdicts.com/picture-book-month-finale-part 1


Today is the last day of Picture Book Month, and T.A.A. wraps up with whetting your appetite for picture books due out in 2014*-

 (*As with many things book related, the release dates listed here are subject to change, and not all titles have an eBook version at the time this post was originally written)



A Day with the Animal Mechanics


A Day with the Animal Mechanics 

by Sharon Rentta

Publisher: Alison Green Books

(An Imprint of Scholastic)

Pub. Date: May 1, 2014

For the little “Fixer Upper” in your life.




Written by Jenny Offill 

Illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade

(An imprint of Random  House Children’s Books)

Pub. Date: March 11th, 2014


Kids with nontraditional pets will get a kick out of Sparky, a sloth that despite being slower than turtles, and more sedate than your eccentric cousin thrice removed after Thanksgiving has more to offer than what the cover image above leads you believe. 

UPDATE: Check out our full review!




By Tim Warnes

 Publisher: Tiger Tales/Little Tiger Press

Pub. Date: March 1st, 2014


Author-Illustrator Tim Warnes brings us cautionary tale with a twist. The “Old Chestnut” style to the illustration certainly helps my anticipation of this March 2014 release.


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


As those who know me well know, I’m an advocate for N.T.B.M.


(Non-Traditional Boys and Men)

In the spirit of the song, “William’s Doll” (From “Free to be You and Me“) co-authors Sarah and Ian Hoffman bring readers a story that despite any potential controversy it sparks, touches on something every boy and man who was “Different” has to face, but all too often, in a negative and abusive context.

In a world where girls and women the world over are breaking boundaries and redefining what it means to be a girl or woman today, boys and men have been left behind (And LEFT OUT) of the local and increasingly GLOBAL conversation in this age of redefining their non-standard gender identity.

Even if your son/brother/nephew/etc. isn’t like Jacob, this book might be wise to keep on your eyes on when it launches early next year. Trust your Literary Rat on this one…I’m a non-traditional man and proud of it!




How to Cheer Up Dad

By Fred Koehler

Publisher: Dial 

Pub. Date: March 20, 2014


We need more Father-Son Stories in general. Enough said. (Until I review it, of course!)


Here Comes the Easter Cat




Written by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Claudia Rueda

Publisher: Dial

Pub. Date: January 28, 2014


It seems dogs aren’t the only rivals for this cat given the title of the latest from author Deborah Underwood, best known for “The Quiet Book” and it’s companion “The Loud Book.” Easter may be many months away (At the time this post is being written) but it never hurts to plan ahead with seasonal titles.


UPDATE: Check our review!


The Driftwood Ball



 The Driftwood Ball

   By Thomas Docherty

    Publisher: Templar Publishing

     Pub. Date: January 1st, 2014









Thomas Docherty’s next solo outing continues the grand tradition of “Going Your Own Way” by using the classic setting of a exclusionary social event with a fresh approach. This is one dance off I DON’T want to miss! (Says the Literary Rat with two left hind paws…)


For more on Thomas Docherty (And his author wife, Helen) check the links above for our author spotlight article featuring their previous solo and collaborative work.


Busy Bunny Days - In the Town, On the Farm & At the Port


Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm & At the Port

By Britta Teckentrup

Publisher Chronicle Books 

Pub. Date: February 25, 2014


Think of Richard Scarry’s “Busy Town”

meets Disney’s “BunnyTown” and you have

a rabbit lover’s utopia in picture book form.

(Fun Fact: Your Literary Rat [Though not Chinese] was born in the “Year of the Rabbit” and I’ve had mixed feelings about that…)






By Elys Dolan ()

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Pub. Date: February 25th, 2014


As loyal T.A.A. readers know, I’m working on a fairy tale style novel (Working Title: The Baroque Weasel) but while my weasel is a hero, this picture book by author-illustrator Elys Dolan uses their classic role as a gang trouble making upstarts who try to take over the world.

Will they succeed? We’ll have to wait for February 2014 to find out…

UPDATE: Check Out Our Review!

Babar on Paradise Island

Babar on Paradise Island

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers

Pub. Date: May 13, 2014

Much like other classic series such as Madeline and The Berenstain Bears, an extended family has carried on where the original creators left off, and the pachyderm who became King is off on yet another adventure, but will paradise turn out to be a foreboding misnomer?  



by Charlie Sutcliffe

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Originally Published: October 3rd, 2013 (U.K.)

(U.S.) Pub. Date: April 1st, 2014


First released in the U.K. in October 2013, Author-Illustrator Charlie Sutcliffe makes his picture book debut in the U.S. in 2014.

FINALLY, a potential male counterpart to Eloise and Madeline. Not sure it’ll rhyme as in the case of the latter…


Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century

Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century

by Jane O’Connor

Illustrated by

Robin Preiss Glasser

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pub. Date: April 8, 2014



The DIY Diva/Fashionista is back and fancier than ever.

What better than a wedding to bring the appropriate glam and big vocabulary to the table. Nancy may not always “Keep it Simple” but she always keeps things sensational!


I Am Otter

I Am Otter (@i_am_otter)

by Sam Garton (@SamuelGarton)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray 

(An Imprint of HarperCollins)

Pub. Date: April 29, 2014

Just like a certain “Wimpy Kid” this character began as a niche online experiment by author-illustrator Sam Garton, and is now entering the print book world in April 2014! Fans of Calvin and Hobbes and Katie Davis (The Latter of which was spotlighted for Picture Book Month 2013) will be in stitches when Otter struts in!

UPDATE: Check our review!

This is only a TASTE of the many picture books we have to look forward to in 2014. They’ll all available for pre-order now. (For those of you early bird shoppers)

If you’ve got an upcoming release that you’re excited for, or any comments on the books mentioned above, please share in the comments below. T.A.A. LOVES hearing from you, our precious readers.

Thanks for spending Picture Book Month with T.A.A. We’ll be back for 2014 and beyond. 

Regular blog posts will resume Monday, December 2nd, 2013. Until then, stay safe as Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. continues, and as always-

May the fantastical fauna be with you.


P.S: Also take time to check out the 

OFFICIAL website for

Picture Book Month:http://www.picturebookmonth.com


UPDATE (12/3/13)piboidmo2013-winnerbadge-700x700

I got to 30 IDEAS in

PiBoIdMo 2013!