Weekly Readings (National Pig Day Edition)

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Welcome one and all to another edition of

“Weekly Readings”

Normally, your lit. rat reviews a range of books solo, but seeing as today is “National Pig Day” T.A.A.’s favorite pig, Swinebert Glockchester (from “Swinebert & Dempsey”) will be taking over today and shares some of his favorite books, and reprises some of our previous reviews. 



Hamlet and the Tales of Sniggery Woods

by Maggie Kneen

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Pub. Date: May 26th, 2009

This is a charming collection of stories about a gentile pig who despite the Shakespearean roots of his name, takes inspiration not in the theatre world, but the world of culinary arts and runs a cooking school, Maggie Kneen’s illustrations undoubtedly hearken back to a time when the forefathers and fore-mothers of animal fantasy were just getting started.

I wish there were more books set in the charming world of Sniggery Woods, but even if this remains a one and done, we got a nice day visit, and I encourage anyone who loves short reads and old school charm give it a read.






Mary Had A Little Ham

by Margie Palatini

Illustrated by Guy Francis

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)

Pub. Date: September 2nd, 2003


NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a re-post of our original review of “Mary Had A Little Ham”


Even the shyest souls among us have at times dreamed of life in the spotlight, even your lit. rat likes to pretend he’s a famous actor or performer of some kind.


In some ways my upcoming podcast imitative “T.A.A. FM” will give me the chance to in some small way live that fantasy, but with my voice more so than my face, but more on that later, now onto the review…


As the title suggests, this is a retelling of the vintage nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb” but recast to star a pig by the name of Stanley Snoutowski who leaves his home on the farm to chase the siren song of stardom.


Illustrator Guy Francis left nothing to chance, using every page spread from cover to cover, crease to corner, and dedication to end papers, to invoke the spirit of Old Hollywood at it’s best.


While also depicting the lows of our swine-tastic protagonist on his way from humble beginnings to the big time, part of which is chronicled via the old school snail mail between, and his girl, named, you guessed it–Mary, alongside Margie’s spare but effective prose.


My friend Swinebert Glockchester (of Swinebert and Dempsey fame) has a dad who worked in the movies as an actor, and when I shared the story with him, he said-


“This pig fits my Pa to a T, when he was just getting started in show business. Hope Dempsey and me do as well with our endeavors.”  


You will, S.B. I’ll do my best to make sure of that. Classic movie buffs and starry eyed thespians alike will find much humor and unabashed optimism abound in “Mary Had A Little Ham.” On that note: Here’s looking at you, Stanley!




Rufus Goes to School

by Kim T. Griswell

Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (@SterlingBooks)

Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013


NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a re-post of our original review of “Rufus Goes To School”


Rufus Leroy Williams III (you can just call him Rufus) is a little piglet, with a BIG, yet simple dream-


To read his favorite book, that at the moment he only can follow from the pictures.


Rufus decides to send himself to school so he can learn to read.


But has a heck of a time convincing the principal to let him attend.


He seems to confuse earnest pig Rufus for “The Big Bad Wolf” of Grimm’s fame, not in the man-eating sense, but thinking him more a preordained bully than potential scholar, thankfully Rufus remains unflappable in his quest to attend school.


How does he win this misguided principal over? You’ll have to read

and find out.


Valeri Gorbachev’s illustrations have this warm, unassuming charm matching well with Kim’s narrative, using repetition and rhythm to great effect.


The warm tone to the illustrations reminds me of the late and great Fred Marcelino, and dare I say, the legendary Richard Scarry, but his style’s all his own.


Swinebert and Dempsey Title Cover #2

Given the piggy nature of this book, I’ve asked Swinebert Glockchester (from T.A.A. FM’s“Swinebert & Dempsey”) to share his thoughts on the book-


Swinebert: This book reminds me of my nephew Trug’s first day of school


He’s in 4th grade now, but when he first went to school, he was just as eager as Rufus to learn to read. 

Thankfully his school was open to him from the start, though Trug told me the janitor looked at him in a “Scary Mean” way whenever he saw him.


(«Swinebert’s Nephew, Trug Glockchester)

Apparently, he’d been told the myth that pigs are always messy and smelly slobs that would make his job all the harder.

Let me make one thing clear, it’s true we pigs like to get messy and muddy, but we’re not all slobs in every circumstance, and as far as Trug and me, we know there’s a time and place to be muddy and a time to be clean and neat, and at school (especially a human/nonhuman school like Trug’s) it’s best to be clean and neat!


SWINEBERT (YOUTH)That said, I went to an all piglet school when I lived on a ranch outside of New York City, and we did have a “Mud Bath” period, but we always showered off afterwards.





(Swinebert  in the flush of youth)


Reading “Rufus Goes to School” brought back all those memories of Trug’s (and yours truly) first days of school: the good times, bad times, sad times, and all the times in-between.



Swinebert (Grown Up 1.5)

Uncle Swinebert's Signature (FINAL)











P.S: I can’t wait for the next book “Rufus Goes To Sea” Coming April 2015



BONNIE GLAM SHOTBefore I go, check out the video I did with Bonnie

(from T.A.A. FM’s “Guido & Bonnie“) as part of a fan tribute to Carolyn Crimi’s “Dear Tabby” 




That’s it for Weekly Readings.

See you 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(s).


Weekly Readings VII


It’s been a LONG time coming, but welcome one and all to 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…This week, we’ve got a duet of Tough Guy tales with a twist-

 Big Mean Mike

Big Mean Mike

By Michelle Knudsen (@MichelleKnudsen)

Illustrated by Scott Magoon (@smagoon)

Publisher: Candlewick Press (U.S.) [@Candlewick]

Walker Books Ltd [@WalkerBooksUK] (U.K.)

Pub. Date: August 14, 2012


I’ve been wanting to read this book since it first came out back in 2012, but it took me FAR longer to finally get to it, but now I’ve finally got my paws on it, and now I get to share it with you, my precious readers.


Contrary to the title, this isn’t a “Big ‘n Bad, Huff and Puff Wolfie deal”, but rather the story of a roughneck canine who takes wears his Big and Mean image with pride. What better way to challenge that image then to be surrounded something opposite of big and mean, in this case: tiny and cute bunnies!


Illustrator Scott Magoon does a fabulous job sequencing the pacing through his illustrations, and smart use of lineart to infer motion and expression of the characters. be they central or extras in the background. 

As if to say “Mean Mutt versus Relentless Rabbits-SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!” to loosely evoke the high octane spirit of monster truck shows, which is also featured in this book. I’m not a big car guy (despite living in Detroit [aka “The Motor City] my whole life), but I did have my dreams of owning and driving a vintage Ford Thunderbird.

Those of you who grew up with younger siblings (or relatives akin to siblings) will find much humor and catharsis as Mike is surrounded by bunnies at every turn. Or if you were the younger sibling, this is a humorous glimpse of how your big bro or sis felt whenever you tagged along against their will, whether you idolized him or liked to mess with her…(Or some combo thereof)

In any group of friends, there’s always that one or two friends that you might feel a bit embarrassed by, not because of who they are, but how it might look to those who don’t know that friend like you do. The title’s a bit of a misnomer, but as you read the story, you’ll see that’s part of the point.


Big Mean Mike is a non-preachy reminder that our self-image isn’t everything, nor is it one-dimensional.  I speak from personal experience in this matter.  


I started “Talking Animal Addicts” in large part to shed the shame I used to carry about being into something many others my age have “Grown out of”, or interested in things I was interested in others weren’t, like cooking and liking non-rap music.

All that to say, this is one of those books my 5 year old self could’ve used, but I’m glad it’s here now for the kids who need it, and this lit. rat’s honored to play some small part in spreading the good word, and to loosely quote Mike, “That’s EXACTLY how The Literary Rat likes it!” 


(Check Out the Fan Book Trailer I made for “Big Mean Mike”)

Fox and Fluff

Fox and Fluff

By Shutta Crum

Illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company


Pub. Date: September 1st 2002

 This is one of those I just happened to stumble across in one of my many book hunts, and I knew when I started doing book reviews on T.A.A. last year, I knew this was one of the books I’d most want to recommend.


I meant to to time this review for Father’s Day 2014, but life and tech got in the way, and hey, now more than ever before in recorded history, dads need empowering all throughout the year!

What happens when a hungry fox and orphaned baby chick meet? Not what you might think…

Fox decided to spare the poor “Mixed up” chick and takes his leave.  However, the chick (named Fluff)  has chosen Fox to be his “Papa.” Despite Fluff’s best efforts to be a hunting partner, Fox knows the only thing to do is leave Fluff in the care of others his own species. The only thing is, Fluff’s too “Foxy” for them! (Peep! Peep! Grr!)

While masterful mother and child books are eternally bountiful, we’re still playing catch up with dad and child stories, particularly ones that reflect the more varied and open-hearted fathers of the 21st Century, versus the dictating “Master of the House” image that for many families and cultures still persists today.


One of the issues I feel plagues a lot of dad and child stories (particularly in books for older readers)  is that they’re either silly to a fault or so strict you want to reach into the story, and drag them by the ear before they do their kid untold emotional damage…Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, thankfully in the picture book space we’ve got dads of varying styles and temperaments. Similar to “Big Mean Mike”, Fox has an image to uphold, further enhanced by being a carnivore, he hunts bunnies, mice and the like-and Fluff’s attempts to “help his Papa” only complicates matters.


I usually am wary of “Accidental Dad” stories as they can make look more incompetent than they really are.


But this book avoids that pitfall as we see Fox slowly (by picture book standards) evolve from wanting to be rid of Fluff, to being unable to imagine life without him around.


The ending (which I won’t spoil here) is the cherry on top to a charming, well-told and drawn tale.


For anyone (especially you single dads out there) looking for the fatherly companion to “Are You My Mother?” look no more, you’ve found it in Fox and Fluff!

 (Check Out the Fan Book Trailer I made for “Fox and Fluff”)

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(s).