Weekly Readings (National Pig Day Edition)

National Pig Day 2015 Banner

 

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. 

 

9780805077018

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.

 

 

 

 

9780786805662

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!

 

 

9781454904168

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

TRUG-2.5

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

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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 (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!

 

FETCH

 

FETCH

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.

TAA CARES 3

 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-

 

TJW FETCH (FINAL 2)

 

Check out my fan book trailer for “FETCH”

Here’s the OFFICIAL trailer for

“FETCH”

 

 

 

Chalky

 

CHALKY AND THE NEW SPORTS CAR

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-

DEMPSEY POLAROID

 

“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.

Weekly Readings (Guido and Bonnie Edition)

 

 

Weekly Readings - Guido and Bonnie Ed. FB II.5

 

 

Welcome one and all to another edition of

“Weekly Readings”

Normally, your lit. rat reviews a range of books solo, but today my canine-feline colleagues, Guido & Bonnie (@GuidoandBonnie), we’ll be helping me review today’s book roster, as our theme speaks to two topics near and dear to their hearts and mine, pet empowerment!

First up, the book that inspired Guido & Bonnie to be the pet advisers/entertainers they are today-

 

Dear Tabby

Dear Tabby

by Carolyn Crimi

Illustrated by David Roberts

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pub. Date: February 8th, 2011

 

 

Even pets have problems, but while humans have countless newspaper columns, call-in radio shows and daytime television programs, where can pets go for advice?

 

That’s where Tabby comes in…

 

One of the things I LOVE about Tabby is  that she’s inclusive rather than exclusive.

 

She doesn’t only advise her like species, but also birds, dogs, hamsters, and even trained Circus bears!

 

She’ll also counsel the wilder critter folks, such as a lovelorn skunk who could be “Looney Tunes” alum, Pepe le Pew’s long lost distant cousin. 

 

 

Well. minus the french accent and “Don Juan” complex…

 

Author Carolyn Crimi nails the epistolary form. Each exchange between the animal inquirer and Tabby short and sweet  with tons of personality.

 

Illustrations by David Roberts have this hip and slick retro style that still feels contemporary, and in this era of digital communications, seeing the use of paper, pencils, and typewriters delights the nostalgia buff in me. 

KatieDavis2013

 

I have to give a shout out to Katie Davis who through interviewing Carolyn for her podcast “Brain Burps About Books” I discovered Carolyn and her body of work, but in particular this book, which will be celebrating it’s 5th anniversary (or “Book Birthday” if you prefer) February 2015!

 

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Carolyn’s a former Michigander, and your lit. rat lives in the mitten state (as does T.A.A. HQ)   

 

As I mentioned at the outset of the review, this book has a special place in the hearts of my friends, Guido & Bonnie, so I asked them to share their thoughts-

 

GUIDO's GLAM SHOT

I may be a dog, but unlike previous canine generations, I don’t subscribe to the conventions of cat and dog relations.

 

My best friend and confidant is Bonnie, who just happens to be a cat.

 

Granted, we got off to a rough start when we first met, but now we’re B.F.F.Bs(i.e. Best Friends Forever with Boundaries)

 

Sure, there are some cats who rub me the wrong way, but it’s subjective, just like there are fellows and ladies my own species I don’t jive with.

 

What I love best about “Dear Tabby” is that as Taurean mentioned in his review, Tabby’s inclusive, advising cats, dogs such as yours truly, and all the domestic and feral folks in between.

 

 

 

 

BONNIE GLAM SHOT

   

BONNIE

When Guido first proposed the idea of being in the pet empowerment/entertaining business, I thought he was just dreaming of the impossible.

I’m the realist in our friendship (though Guido argues it’s more like the “closet Pessimist”), and after having a fun, but stressful stint at being a show cat in the pageant circuit, I was not thrilled about being in the public eye any time soon…

But Guido and Wendy (our fairy god-mouse, long story there…) convinced me to go for it, and this book (a favorite of my human, Andrea, in her pre-adolescent era) gave me the courage and sparked the passion in myself to do what Tabby does.

While our methods are more high tech and global, versus Tabby’s network being analog and smaller scale, our goals are the same, to give pets a voice, and if possible, a little advice to aid their journey through this existence we call life.

But Guido and I are taking it a step further to help pet parents get their pets a little better, and hopefully entertain them both along the way.

Of all the countless “Out there” ideas Guido’s had (and still has) over the years, this I have to admit is his most brilliant yet.

Thanks Guido, Wendy, and you, Dear Tabby, for inspiring me to take the first step into this challenging but fun and fulfilling life!

Check Out T.A.A.’s

Fan Trailer

For “Dear Tabby”

Also, Check Out

A Special Fan Tribute to “Dear Tabby”

(Featuring Bonnie and Swinebert Glockchester from “Swinebert & Dempsey”)

 

 

 Also, check out Carolyn’s interview

with Katie Davis from a Classic 

“Brain Burps About Books”

(Ep. #48: Dear Tabby, a Wise Cat Gives Advice)

 

 

 

Help Me, Mr. Mutt

Help Me, Mr. Mutt!

Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems

by Janet Stevens

and Susan Stevens Crummel

Illustrated by Janet Stevens

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Pub. Date: April 1st 2008

Cats aren’t the only species in the “Pet Advice” business.

 

Like his feline counterpart “Dear Tabby” Mr. Mutt gives dry wit and matter-of-fact tone to reply the the hounds, terriers, spaniels and mutts of all kinds who write him.

 

Epistolary stories (i.e. Stories told entirely via letters) are tricky to pull off because just like in straight prose, each exchange has to pull its weight, and this book does just that.

 

Unlike “Dear Tabby” that had a variety of pets and/or pet parent issues, all the letters to Mr. Mutt have two things in common, dogs with human issues, and all wonder why their cat roommates get better treatment, consideration, or otherwise special treatment from their humans they don’t.

 

Another twist in “Mr. Mutt” is that his cat roomie, known only as “The Queen”, often hi-jacks his column to counterattack his jabs about cats.

 

At one point, she pulls a “Garfield” and takes over the column Diva-Style! But unlike the more laid back and naive Odie from the iconic Jim Davis comic strip, Mr. Mutt’s got four-legged friends from all over, who are more than willing to lend a paw to impeach “The Queen” from her throne… 

 

As you might suspect from the cover credits, Mr. Mutt’s a family affair, being the brain child of two sisters, Janet and Susan Stevens who co-wrote the story, and the wispy atmospheric illustrations (done by sister Janet, who’s also an illustrator) contrasts yet compliments the pithy quips from Mr. Mutt and “The Queen.”

 

Help Me, Mr. Mutt! Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems” is a rough and tumble, tongue and cheek look at the world of pets advising pets.

 

To paraphrase “Casablanca” Here’s at

looking you,  Guido & Bonnie-

 

 

 

 

GUIDO

 

It’s nice to know there are other dogs of a certain age like me who’re joining the pet empowerment profession, for me, Mr. Mutt’s right up there with “Dear Tabby.”

 

Though I do take issue with his narrow views on cats, but he’s from a different era, where cats and dogs had a lot of proverbial axes to grind toward each other.

 

Or in the case of of the popular cartoons back then, axes were used in the literal sense!

 

That aside, Mr. Mutt’s an okay dog in my book, and on my bookshelf.

 

 

BONNIE

 

You might think I’d side with “The Queen” given she’s the main cat of this book, but you’d be wrong.

 

Like Mr. Mutt himself, I’m not fond of her, either, it’s cats like her that give ALL cats a bad rep not only to dogs, but humans, too!

 

The Queen’s lucky she doesn’t live near me, or we’d give new and more literal meaning to the term “Cat Fight.”

 

Anyway, it’s books like this that remind me how lucky I am Guido and I can live/work in harmony, which doesn’t mean never fight, or get annoyed with each other, it’s just not a “War” every time.

 

 

Letters From A Depserate Dog

Letters From A Desperate Dog

by Eileen Christelow

Publisher: Clarion Books

Pub. Date: October 16th, 2006

 

 

Emma is a dog with human problems.

 

Most of the time, life with her human, George, is great, but as every pet (and pet parent) knows, there are days when the kibble hit the fan, and Emma’s overall a good dog, she makes her share of missteps, though George’s temperamental nature doesn’t help!

 

(He’s an artist, they can be moody sometimes…) 

 

Emma, both heartbroken and furious, finally decides it’s time to get some help, in the form of “Dear Queenie” a canine advice columnist who gives sassy and succinct counsel to pets at the end of their proverbial rope, and under the alias “Desperate Dog” Emma begins a string of correspondence between herself and Queenie that ultimately leads her to leave George’s home to the cat and be her own dog!

 

Best known for her “Five Little Monkeys” series, author-illustrator Eileen Christelow brings us a funny and fast-paced tale that dog lovers everywhere will find as much truth as there is fiction.

 

Inspired by the exploits of the “Original Emma” (the author’s dog who sadly died in 2013) Eileen’s frenetic yet warm illustrations reflect inviting yet quirky tones of the story, fans of “Martha Speaks” will definitely take to Emma’s direct and spunky voice.

 

The use of the comic panel format (similar to “There’s A Wolf at the Door” that T.A.A. reviewed for Halloween 2014) adds a fun twist that is well executed. If you’ve got pups of your own, who are hard-pressed to read (or have read to them) anything in non-comic format, this book surely delight.

 

As an author myself, I know there are often callous jokes in publishing about authors advised not write about their dogs, if Eileen heard this counsel, I’m  SO GLAD she didn’t listen to them!

 

“Letters From A Desperate Dog” is like reading a “For Better Or Worse” comic strip from the dog’s POV.

 

Big Words I know, but if the Patterson’s late canine friend, Farley, could read, this might’ve been his favorite book.

 

After all, family issues are a two-way street, even between us and our furry friends. 

 

On that note, here are Guido and Bonnie’s

thoughts on the book-

 

 

GUIDO

 

I also have to admit that like Emma, things between my master and me have rarely been smooth.

 

He’s a great guy, and his wife and “pups” are good to me, but I sure have my share  of complaints…

 

The biggest is the matter of family vacations.

 

Often Bonnie and I are left out and either stay home or at some daycare.

 

Which to be fair, is a nice place, and you make new friends, but do they HAVE to call it “Doggie Daycare?”

 

I mean, I’m not a newborn pup, folks, I’m often the oldest dog there these days.

 

While Bonnie did go on a car trip with Andrea (her human) to Canada to visit Bonnie’s sister Marjorie and her new kittens, the last time my master took me on vacation with him was over 9 years ago, and in dog years that’s nearly a century!

 

I think I’ll write to “Dear Queenie” myself soon… (Even Pet Advisers need advice themselves, too, you know!)

 

 

BONNIE

Emma and George’s relationship reminds me a lot of my human Andrea’s relationship with her father , who’s Guido’s human, now that Andrea’s in the whirlwind of adolescence, she and her dad have many a battle over everything from clothes, food, to dating! 

 

The biggest fight we ever had was when she was 10 and I accidentally ate a special picnic lunch

she made for her (eventual) boyfriend (long story, but let’s just say a tuna melt and shrimp balls were involved…)

 

Anyway, while I enjoyed “Letters From A Desperate Dog” I didn’t get as into it as Guido, but I appreciate the cat in it wasn’t “Evil” which is often how we feline gals and guys are portrayed in books from a dog’s POV.

 

The Desperate Dog Writes Again

The Desperate Dog Writes Again

by Eileen Christelow

Publisher: Clarion Books

Pub. Date: October 28, 2010

I was psyched that “Letters From A Desperate Dog” got a sequel and I can attest it’s just as great as the first!

Emma, and her human, George have more or less worked out the strife they went through in the previous book, but peace doesn’t last long when George starts dating a woman that Emma suspects is up to no good.

The (un-named) cat, who also lives with Emma and George, tries to explain that this woman is merely his new girlfriend, and possibly something more…

But Emma’s certain that Loretta (George’s girlfriend) is , and her dog, Hankie, even more-so.

When her efforts to protect and warn George backfire BIG TIME, Emma once again writes to “Dear Queenie” canine advice columnist, under her alias, “Desperate Dog” in hopes finding a way to warn George of Loretta’s “True Colors” before it’s too late!

Author-illustrator Eileen Christielow pulls out all the stops with this follow-up story. 

The use of comic panels shows a greater confidence in the overall presentation from both a artistic and functional standpoint.

“The Desperate Dog Writes Again” is yet another love letter for pets and pet parents everywhere, and a humorous reminder that not all changes are bad, especially l when they involve PIZZA!

 

With that, take it away, Guido & Bonnie-

GUIDO

Another great book about a “Desperate Dog” who’s anything but to me, and if I weren’t already in a relationship with a fine Irish Terrier (after YEARS being of single) I’d totally ask her out. That said, Emma, could you invite me and Bonnie over next time it’s Loretta’s pizza night? 

BONNIE

I got into the sequel much more in large part because the (unnamed) cat got more page time, and I love how his and Emma’s dynamics mirror mine and Guido’s.

I’m often the rational sort and like Guido, Emma’s the free-spirited “Thinks outside the box” type, and while that has its merits, it can be problematic at times…

Check Out T.A.A.’s Fan Trailer for

“The Desperate Dog” Books

(You Can Also Get Social With 

“The Desperate Dog” on Facebook)

 
That’s All For This Special Edition of “Weekly Readings.”
See you next time.

Talking Animal Addicts 5th Anniversary

T.A.A. 5th Anniversary FINAL

 

 

T.A.A. turns 5 today, and your lit. rat’s so happy he began this journey back in December 2010 to bring you the latest happenings in the world of fantastical fauna, and 2014’s been our most special year yet, and 2015 looks to be our most ambitious year yet.

 

I also want to give special thanks to my colleagues who will be offering regular contributions to T.A.A. in the coming weeks and months-

 

Guido and Bonnie 2-Shot (MINI 3)

Guido & Bonnie

(from T.A.A. FM, our upcoming podcast network)

(@GuidoandBonnie)

 

 

 

Swinebert & Dempsey (Fancy 2-Shot) - FINALSwinebert Glockchester and Dempsey Woyzeck (@Swinebert_and_D)

(from T.A.A. FM, our upcoming podcast network)

 

 

 

 

To those of you followed us since the beginning, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and give a hearty welcome to those of you new to T.A.A. 

 

In closing, I’d appreciate if you’d leave a comment below and tell me what you’d love to see on T.A.A. in 2015: Author interviews, more special feature articles, more ways to get involved in the T.A.A. community?

Any ideas for our YouTube channel? 

 

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

 

Taurean J. Watkins (@Taurean_Watkins)

“The Literary Rat” 

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

Talking Animal Addicts

 

 

 

Sam Garton and Otter – Picture Book Month

SandO

 

As Picture Book Month continues, your lit. rat begins his series of Author/Illustrator Spotlights where we celebrate some of the best and brightest in the world today.

 

Today’s spotlight is all about author-illustrator Sam Garton, and his friend, Otter-

 

 I Am Otter

I Am Otter (@i_am_otter)

by Sam Garton (@SamuelGarton)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

(An Imprint ofHarperCollins)

Pub. Date: April 29th, 2014

Your lit. rat named this book one of T.A.A.’s “Most Anticipated Reads of 2014” back in 2013 during our first series of author/illustrator spotlights celebrating “Picture Book Month.” 

It’s also a favorite of my friends “Swinebert & Dempsey.”

[@Swinebert_and_D]

They’re such BIG fans, in fact, they made this video in honor the book’s launch on April 29th, 2014-

I Am Otter

(Celebration Video from Swinebert & Dempsey) 

[April 29, 2014]

This book also has the honor of being the very first book your. lit. rat EVER pre-ordered!

 

It’s also the first time I’ve connected with a book’s star pre its release.

On May 5th, 2014, T.A.A. reviewed “I Am Otter” and is one of the best books your lit. rat set eyes upon this year. 

In Early November 2014, “I Am Otter” was in the semifinals of the Goodreads Choice Awards in the picture book category through write-in votes from diverse fans across the globe! (including yours truly)

Sadly, it didn’t make the finals, but Otter took it in stride.

(Giraffe, not so much…)

But #TeamOtter still had something to cheer about when recently, revealed the cover for Otter’s next book-

Otter in Space

Expect T.A.A. to be on the lookout when this beams down in May 2015* (which is also your lit. rat’s birthday month!)

During the summer, I heard rumblings that another Otter book is in the works, and I was so excited I made this video teaser MONTHS ago (before the cover was revealed)

(“Otter in Space” Spring 2014 Teaser)

Learn more about Otter at her OFFICIAL website-

www.iamotter.co.uk 

 

Oh, one last thing-

Weekly Readings X

 Weekly Readings X (10)

Welcome one and all 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…

 

Last week, we did our first leap in to middle grade novels after spending the last two years establishing our picture book reviews, but this week we’re back to picture books.

 

 

This week, T.A.A.’s going “Back to School” with some books for the young scholar (or scholars) in your life.

 

 

We originally meant to time this with the start of the (U.S.) 2014-2015 school year.

 

But life and tech happens, and hey, sometimes “Better late than never” is NOT the worst thing in the world! (Just a word to the wise and SANE from your lit. rat)

 

 

In this double feature review session, we’ve got a tried and true dynamic duo who’ve earned their honors, and a freshman fighting for the right to read who’d make recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai proud-

 

A Library Book For Bear

 

A Library Book For Bear

by Bonny Becker

Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Publisher: Candlewick Press (@Candlewick)

Pub. Date: July 22nd, 2014

 

The curmudgeonly ursine and unflappable rodent have been charming and cracking up readers since their inaugural outing, “A Visitor for Bear” WAY back in 2008-

 

 

A Visitor For Bear

 

 

Thankfully, the dawn of the “Great Recession”

didn’t take this duo out with it.

 

As the title of this recent installment implies, we’re heading to one your lit. rat’s favorite places, but guess who’s not yet jazzed about the concept…

As usual, set in his ways Bear thinks he has all the books he needs at home. (Something my grandma might wish was my mindset, given the MANY books in this lit. rat’s private library, without actually having a dedicated library room…)

 

But ever the patient “Agony Uncle”Mouse tries to get his grumpy buddy bear (not to be confused with THE Grumpy Bear of “Care Bears” fame) to take a bite out of the literary melting pot we lovingly call: the library!

 

Once again, author Bonny Becker (who wrote one of my fave under-appreciated novels, “Holbrook – A Lizard’s Tale“) and illustrator Kady MacDonald Denton team up for the 5th time reminding readers young and old that libraries ROCK!

 

Another way you can support authors you love, while feeding your reader addiction even when you’re on a tighter budget than you’d like.

 

It’s also important for those of us more able to buy books to help our libraries out by donating new or gently used copies, especially library systems like my hometown of Detroit, Michigan (aka T.A.A. HQ),that’s so cash strapped even titles from just LAST YEAR (of the book’s pub. date) aren’t available in the system.

 

Which often means I can’t always find books I want to read and/or review via DPL (Even through inter-library loan).

 

It’s something I plan to take action on for 2015, more on that in the near future…

 

Out next title is the new kid on the block (not the musical group) that I’m so psyched to share-

 

 

Rufus Goes To School

Rufus Goes to School

by Kim T. Griswell

Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (@SterlingBooks)

Pub. Date: August 6th, 2013

 

 

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-

TRUG-2.5

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.

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow  Swinebert (and his feline pal, Dempsey) on Twitter via @Swinebert_and_D

 

facebook-346725←They’re also on Facebook!

 

 

 

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. by clicking on the affiliate cover images above or links within the review(s).

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).