Weekly Readings V

Weekly Readings V (BETA)

 

T.A.A. Fans Old and New,

Welcome to another edition of Weekly Readings! 

 

Usually, Weekly Readings is when your lit. rat reviews a mix of picture books I’ve read here and there. But this week, I’m focusing on one book in particular- 

 

I Am Otter Cover

I Am Otter (@i_am_otter)

by Sam Garton (@SamuelGarton)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (An Imprint of HarperCollins)

Pub. Date: April 29, 2014

As Long time T.A.A. fans know, this book was one of our “Most Anticipated Book of 2014” picks during our 2013 celebration of “Picture Book Month” founded and run by author Tara Lazar (Her debut picture book “The Monstore” is available June 4th, 2014) and this is one of the few things in life I have ever pre-ordered, which I can still count on one hand.

 

Your lit. rat has read and re-read this book, and I’m happy to finally be able to say it was worth the wait. But for those of you not yet convinced, or just unaware of this book (and it’s star) allow me to clue you in, but before I go further-

Question, what do “I Am Otter” and Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series have in common?

They both began as online “Experiments” that soon attracted many eyeballs across the web, and particularly in the case of Otter, across continents, and soon their now publishers (Amulet Books [U.S.] and Balzer + Bray [imprint of HarperCollins] respectively) approach them for bringing them to print, and the road to this book’s release is a great example of “Out of the Box” marketing that today’s authors and/or illustrators can learn from, but that’s a topic for another time and place… 

 

Anyway, our tittle character has something in common with another famous kidlit character, the iconic Paddington Bear, who also began life anew when he migrated from darkest Peru to England where a mild-mannered family took him in, unaware of the adventures and antics that would await them…  

 

But while P.B. had an established biological family in his native homeland before being taken in by the Brown family, Otter began not knowing where she came from when left on the doorstep of the human (Known as Otter Keeper) who like the Browns, got more than he bargained for…

 

Children from adoptive or blended families can relate to Otter’s initial unease settling in, and like many children, a special toy friend can make all the difference, just like Christopher Robin and Pooh and Co., or a non-wizard Harry had his bucket of dinosaurs, Otter has Teddy, and together with Otter Keeper, they have more fun than you could believe!

 

But as the saying goes, all unbelievable fun has to come to an end, and after a fun-filled weekend, Monday comes, and with that, Otter Keeper goes to work, and despite Otter’s attempts to prevent Monday from coming, it always barges in-   sad dog eyes

This is one of rare books that comes along every so often, where the reader’s not only rewarded with a plucky, well-defined character, but for anyone who had to “Make your own fun” from an early age as I did, can relate to Otter doing her best to pass the time, some ideas working better than others, and yet somehow always involve messes and mayhem, just when the grown-up in your life comes home and there’s nowhere to hide!

 

As with many picture books, facial expressions are very important to highlight the unspoken moments that bring characters alive, and that vital quality is in full view here as subtle lines and shading indicate fear, anger, movement and joy.

While many folks relent (or at least occasionally bummed out) how digital the world of visual arts has become, there’s nothing to fear here.  To me, the best visual artists still achieve this organic warmth to their illustrations, even if the final art to appear in the book was digitally enhanced, or it was digital all along.

 

Even books where technology is inherently modern and integral to the story, that warmth is still there, and vital to the experience. You’ll find that detail throughout.

 

Not since Snoopy, Garfield, or Calvin and Hobbes have I met a character as lively and unique as Otter, may she have a long and lorded life in the literary landscape for many years to come.

Look out, Olivia, there’s a new picture book princess in town. (We still love you, too, though!)

 

While this lit. rat normally prefers to work solo when it comes to our book reviews at T.A.A., this was a title that I wanted some extra POVs on, and with that, I’ll let my friends, Swinebert & Dempsey (who shared in the launch celebration of I Am Otter at the end of April 2014), share their thoughts on Otter, her book, and it how relates to them-

 

Swinebert: This book reminded me of the day I met Ferenc. I used to live on a ranch with my Ma, Pa, and siblings.

Unlike most pigs, we weren’t raised to be…food, but rather for show.Ma was a retired show pig, and Pa worked in movies (Think Babe or Gordy), and to Mr. Gregory we weren’t his “Meal Ticket” in more ways than one, we were his friends, family even.

 

But times got tough  when the human recession of 2008 hit. Mr. Gregory was being pressured to sell the ranch, and sell me, and my siblings for slaughter meat. It was during those scary times I met Ferenc when he was a kid.

 

He not only found a way to save the ranch, but saved me, my sibs, and our folks from being sent to Hog Heaven (By way of a Butcher) and gave Mr. Gregory a new lease on life along with his livelihood.

 

When Mr. Gregory insisted on giving Ferenc a reward for his help, the only thing he wanted, was to take me home.   He had a heck of a time convincing his parents to bring me home, but thank acorns he did.

 

Ferenc also gave me my name, the “Bert” in it came from his favorite uncle, and my new life had begun in earnest…

Ferenc and Swinebert Collage 2 (Left Ferenc & Swinebert as Youth | Right, Ferenc & Swinebert Grown-Up)

For many years we lived in Brooklyn, but after Ferenc grew up and graduated college we moved out to put down our own roots in White Oak Acres, a quiet-looking city-town hybrid in suburbia- Overhead view of White Oak Acres

(Overhead view of White Oak Acres)

winebert and Dempsey's House

 (Swinebert & Dempsey’s House)

Here I would meet my best pal, Dempsey, and make so many new and captivating friends, including Otter.

 

Though we’ve not met outside cyberspace, I knew when I first encountered her when me and Dempsey were getting our barrings on Twitter, she’d fit right in with the folks we know and love offline. 

 

But even though she’s my friend, I’d love the book even if I’d not known her (virtually or otherwise) beforehand, because it reminds me how lucky I am to have Ferenc, and while I’m sometimes ticked off when he leaves me out of cool stuff, he’s there for me when it counts.  The only problem is- TRUG 2

(Swinebert’s Nephew,Trug)

My little nephew Trug (who loved the book, too, after his favorite uncle, ME, read it to him) has fallen in love with Otter, and when I say love, I mean the “Flowers and Chocolate-covered acorns, WILL YOU MARRY ME?” kind of love.

 

Otter, should you read this, can you please give a shout out to my nephew Trug on Twitter? I don’t want to lose my “Coolest Uncle Ever!” status. Swinebert's Signature (FINAL) MINI  Dempsey: Like Swinebert, this book reminded me of the day I met my human, Vermont (Goes by “Vernie”) back when I was a kitten. (This was long before I met Swinebert and his human, by the way)  

 

Vernie (when he was a little boy) originally wanted a dog, but got me instead, and at first he didn’t like me.

I too wasn’t sure I’d like Vernie at first, either, until I saw his room the first time, and saw his bookshelf, filled to bursting with books, except the last shelf on the bottom. (More on that later…)

Vernie loved to read, as did I, that was the first glimmer of hope, but what put my kitty heart at ease was when he was reading a book for school.

 

Vernie had a hard time learning to read, and reading aloud helped him remember it better, one night as he read aloud, I hopped onto the desk to keep him company.   Also, because he was reading a story I wanted to hear for ages. He saw I was engaged and he kept reading to me.

When he finished, I thanked him for telling me the story, and that I could help him read better if he was interested, and if you could’ve seen the look on his face, you’d think he’d won MILLIONS or something.

Anyway, he agreed, and as I helped him read better, we started to connect, the first time he hugged me (Because he WANTED to, not because he was told to) I wanted to cry tears of joy, but we cats aren’t ones for crying (Unless we’re in pain) so I purred instead.

 

I asked him why he didn’t like me at first.

 

He said the last time he met a cat, it was mean to him, and he did nothing wrong to it, and it made him think all cats were mean, but meeting me changed his mind, and I’d already changed my mind about Vernie. No one who loves books as he does (Especially because he struggled with reading in the beginning) can be all bad.

He’s grown up now, and still wants a dog, so S.B. and I’ll probably have a howling new member of the family someday, but Vernie and I are like Otter and Teddy now, true friends and inseparable, until (like Otter Keeper) he has to go to work, but with S.B. and our friends, I’m never bored or lonely.

 

But when I do want my “Alone Time” (which all cats do at some point) I can nap in the bottom shelf of Vernie’s bookcase that I mentioned earlier,  and can look at a picture of Vernie and me when I do miss him, or read a book from my literary collection, but I have to store most of my books in my private library in my and S.B.’s backyard clubhouse-

Swinebert and Dempsey's Backyard Clubhouse

 

(Swinebert & Dempsey’s Backyard Clubhouse)

  All My Anchovies, Dempsey Special Thanks to Swinebert & Dempsey (@Swinebert_and_D) for stopping by to share their opinions (and a bit of themselves) today.   That’s it for Weekly Readings. Next time, we’ll be back to our usual multi-book format.

UPDATE (5/16/14): Giveaway’s over! Winner announced.

 

UPDATE (7/16/14): Watch the video below to hear what the “Critters” say about “I Am Otter” and a sneak peak at where she’s headed next! (Feel free to share it with friends!)

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(s).

I Am Otter (Release Celebration with Swinebert & Dempsey)

I Am Otter

 

 

Today is the release day for “I Am Otter” by Sam Garton, last year T.A.A. named it one of “Most Anticipated Releases for 2014” during our Picture Book Month 2013 celebration (UPDATE 5/6/14: Check out our Review!), I’ve invited my friends, Swinebert & Dempsey (@Swinebert_and_D) to stop by and celebrate-

 

Swinebert: Morning Chicks and Chickies! Today’s a big day for an e-friend of ours and Dempsey and I made this video to celebrate-

Dempsey: Special Thanks to Taurean J. Watkins at Talking Animal Addicts for helping S.B. and I create this video!

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

2013-Text-Art

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-

http://www.pinterest.com/taureanjwatkins/taa-celebrates-picture-book-month-2013

 

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.

 

Sparky!

Sparky!

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!

 

DANGEROUS!

DANGEROUS!

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-Hardcover-L9780803739222

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

 

 

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…)

 

Weasels

 

 

WEASELS

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?  

Zubert

Zubert

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.

PBMBADGE-AMBASSADOR-FB

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!