Weekly Readings XVI

Weekly Readings 16Welcome to another edition of 

“Weekly Readings”


For those new here, 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’re giving one of our “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015” the V.I.P. treatment-



WOLFIE The Bunny

by Ame Dyckman 



Illustrated by Zachariah O’Hora


Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers [@littlebrown]

Pub. Date: February 17th, 2015




Few words can strike such sharp, striking, and varying emotions in people.


It’s bad enough having to deal with a drooling tag-along kid brother or sister invading your space, messing with your stuff, and hogging your parents attention with seemingly no end in sight! 


(Which depending on your age, and family dynamic, may be a drawback, or a plus…) 


But I’m guessing that on top of all that, you at least didn’t have the underlying concern of being EATEN by your tag-along sibling! 


That’s where “Wolfie The Bunny” comes in.


No sooner do Mama and Papa bunny discover an abandoned wolf pup at their doorstep, they don’t hesitate to take him in as their own, but Dot’s FAR from convinced this is a good idea, he’s a WOLF for bunny’s sake!

Do her folks not realize what wolves eat!? 

Sure, they’ll start out with milk or formula, but it’s only a matter of time before they crave meat.

From Chicken soup, to beef stew, lamb chops, and yes, even rabbit in mustard sauce…


But it seems Wolfie’s taken to veggies, especially carrots (of course), which is not the least surprising to his vegetarian mom and dad, but Dot’s certain this diet quirk won’t last long.


Eventually, Wolfie grows from a tiny pup, to becoming the biggest member of the household, which only makes Dot all the more anxious.


It’s hard enough being a big sister, even harder when your kid brother is now WAY BIGGER than you, and could give into his predatory instincts at any time.


But the only thing predatory about Wolfie is ever vigilant “stalking” Dot everywhere she goes.


Not to eat her, but simply to be near his lagomorph sister in that annoyingly clingy, yet sometimes endearing way little kids follow the big kids, even though in Wolfie’s case, he’s the bigger one!


When Dot runs an errand to the grocery store (reluctantly bringing Wolfie along) the inter-species sibling duo encounter one bully of a bear. 


It’s at this point the tables turn, and Dot begins to realize that while Wolfie may look big and scary to her on the outside, he’s still a pup on the inside, who needs a big sister like her who despite her size, doesn’t scare easily.


Even when going up against a bear of a bully bigger than both of them.


Those of you with siblings will especially find much humor and solace, whether you were the older sibling whose aptitude for patience runs only so deep, or you were the “baby” of the family who always wanted your older sibling’s cool cred.


Being an only child from a emotionally distant family, I still have tales of cousins who could drive me as crazy as if they were my siblings, only I was the “Wolfie” in those scenarios, but I never had a sister like Dot looking out for me, so he’s got an edge I didn’t have growing up.


Author Ame Dyckman uses spare text and punchy vocabulary that flows with the illustrations, creating that “magic of words and pictures” all picture books strive for.

Zachariah O’Hora’s illustrations have this ability to look modern and classic at the same time, yet have this edge to them which I’d describe as “Punk Lucy Cousins” with some splashes of Dick Bruna’s simple use of shapes, with a ’60s retro color palate that give this book a style all its own.


A stark contrast from the hipper, slightly ’40s inspired look in his solo outing “No fits, Nelson!” 


Those who parrot the common saying, “Times change, people don’t” be thankful you’re not near me when you say that…


Just like with many things in life, families HAVE CHANGED, and evolved, from the hyper-idealized two parents, 2.5 kids and maybe a pet or two.


I’m certainly not criticizing if you have such a family, of course, but families today can and do come in so many forms, and while we often “glorify” the deadbeat/dysfunctional families that have become media icons, we could stand to see more realistic and HAPPIER families in fiction.


Despite the old adage that happy families don’t make for good stories, take the “Swiss Family Robinson” for instance.  


They had a heralding adventure of survival, but they were FAR from the broken families the evening news seems to obsess themselves, and not always for the obvious reasons…


I think with so many kids and teens growing up in less than ideal family dynamics, they need to see more positive portrayals of what they may not get in their own life, while still containing  the conflict and stakes good books need.

While lack of non-stereotypical portrayals of ethnicity in children’s books sparked the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in Spring 2014, what I feel gets lost in that important (and sadly needed) initiative is that diversity isn’t just about race.


It’s also about showing varied portrayals of gender roles and families today, whatever their racial identity, life orientation, or species, given our primary focus on T.A.A.


“Wolfie the Bunny” is one of the books, and most definitely lives up to being one of our “Most Anticipated Reads of 2015.”

Here’s The

“Wolfie the Bunny” trailer

(Created by John Schu/@MrSchuReads)


Also, see “What the Critters Say” about “Wolfie the Bunny”


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.

Weekly Readings IX

Weekly Readings 9.5 (BIG)

Welcome to Weekly Readings!

For those new around here, “Weekly Readings” is when your lit. rat reviews a round of picture books that deserve more attention than they currently have.


From the newest releases to hidden gems from eras past.



While T.A.A. focuses mostly on animal stories, we give humans their due, every now and again.   Now that #BarkWeek’s behind us, this week we’re giving you cat lovers some love!


From a tiger who rebel against tea parties.

A pirate cat who’s not afraid to get wet on the seven seas.

Finally, another gem from our growing archives pays tribute to the Jersey Shore of days gone by…from the POV of a stray cat and a carousel-

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild - LARGE

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

by Peter Brown (@itspeterbrown)

Publisher: Little Brown and Company (@littlebrown)

Pub. Date: September 3rd, 2013


 I feel bad I didn’t get to this book sooner, but maybe this was some unexplained destiny at work, since I’m now reviewing for my 9th edition of “Weekly Readings” and all.


Whether or not you believe in that “Ye Olde Kitten’s Tale” about nine lives, this a book anyone who’s ever felt on the outside. (Which is most of us if we’re honest, and yes, even you extroverts know what I mean) Anyway…


Mr. Tiger may look dapper on the outside, but he feels drabber than drab within. Why?



His life’s too neat, far too proper, and is more than a little tired of tea parties.


While this way of life is nice and peaceful, it’s also getting dull and stuffy for our dapper hero (not to be confused with another tea-sipping tiger)-   The Tiger Who Came to Tea

(Yes, we’ll be reviewing this book A.A.L.D. [At A Later Date…]

I know I often lament the minimalist era picture books are in right now (this might be more common in non-illustrator writers like me), but it’s a real treat here because it’s in these pages without narrative text (or dialogue in the form of comic speech bubbles) where we see the evolution from discontented tiger to WILDCAT ON THE RUN!


Author-Illustrator Peter Brown is known for being a sort of literary MacGyver-Fashionista in the picture book world, he often varies his illustration styles from book to book, watercolors for one, digital 2.5 D cutouts for another.


The white minimalist background in many of the page spreads really make the vibrantly colorful characters pop out at you, in particular, due to his emerging sense of freedom the more wild he gets. Until eventually-


 The illustrations feel modern yet tastefully retro at the same time. It reminds me a little of the art style author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino  used as the model for the “Oswald” television series Nickelodeon did (under it’s “Nick Jr.” imprint), and also reminds me of the slick charm and wit of Gus Gordon’s “Herman and Rosie”


We often associate being a rebel with being an outlaw, or at best someone with few or NO moral grounding, at all.


But a “rebel” is simply someone who is against what the common wisdom is.


Sometimes the common wisdom is not wise for everyone.


After all, the greatest minds of the past and present were rebels in one form or another, and authors (and their characters) have ALWAYS reveled in various forms at one time or another.


Mr. Tiger’s a rebel, if only because he’s honoring a part of himself that’s been stifled far too long, and without getting all “Aesop’s Fables” on you, let’s just say the world could use more: WILD TIME!


For some it’s about going with the flow and not letting everything about your day feel more programmed than those Utopian robot maids many homebodies dream about…


For others, it’s enjoying an occasional doughnut without shaming yourself and still working at eating healthier than you once did.


Still, for others, it’s about taking a break from raised pinkies, tea, and wearing pants…


For me, it’s having the courage and self-compassion to walk in my truth, to openly live and love my passions, one of which is sharing with you, my precious readers. I’ve ready many great books in 2014, but  this is among the best.


While his latest release “My Teacher is A Monster (No, I Am Not)” will only increase in popularity as we enter the 2014-2015 school year in the U.S. (and YES, T.A.A. will review this book soon), for this lit. rat, “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” will always be one of my favorites, because this was the book that hooked me into the world of Peter Brown, and is a tangible testament to what T.A.A.’s all about-


Being Free to be You NO MATTER WHAT!


You may have got snubbed by the Caldecott committee, Mr. Tiger, but I’m proud to give you our “Blue Ribbon”-

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild - LARGE (AWARD)

(Check out my fan book trailer for “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild”)


Now we go from rebel tiger to a swashbuckler tabby-

EPSON scanner image


by T.S. Elliot

Illustrated by Errol Le Cain

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Pub. Date: December 1987

While most people know poet T.S. Elliot from often on many a high school or college student’s “Required Reading” lists, he apparently tried his hand at Kid-lit with this illustrated collection of a stories in verse and selected poems from which he wrote initially for his godchildren, various poems and stories in verse about cats.


Thankfully, these delightful yarns were made available to everyone in this illuminated gem of a book.


The title story, featured on the cover about a surly feline pirate who laughs in the face of the “Cats and Water Don’t Mix” truism is my personal favorite.   Those of you pet parents with cats in particular will find this book charming, but 


While I’ve never had a kitty of my own, (unabashed dog loving rat, that I am), I do have many friends of the feline persuasion, and I’ve asked two of them to read the book and share their thoughts-


“This chap knew cats, and if he never lived with one, you wouldn’t know it reading this book!”

-Dempsey Woyzeck [@Swinebert_and_D]

(from T.A.A. FM’s “Swinebert and Dempsey”)




“Elliot is Exquisite!”

-Bonnie [@GuidoandBonnie]

(from T.A.A. FM’s “Guido and Bonnie” )


Finally, this a caveat I must bring up, this particular edition is out of print, but I do recommend hunting it down, or ask your library if they’ve got a copy.


Just be sure you have the search for illustrator “Errol Le Cain” as he illustrates this selection of Elliot’s verse and prose with such elegance and whimsy.


If all else fails, you can check out this edition of “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” (Different illustrator, Edward Gorey, but all the stories included in our highlighted edition above, plus MORE!) Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats



Last, but far from least, a classic review from our review archives-


Carousel Cat

Carousel Cat

by Robert J. Blake

Publisher: Philomel

Pub. Date: April 21st, 2005


NOTE FROM THE LITERARY RAT: This is a revised re-post of our original review for “Carousel Cat”


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.

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

That’s it for Weekly Readings. See you 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. and also your local independent bookstores by clicking the affiliate cover images above or the links within the review(s).


Support us and your local bookstores in one go!