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 XI

Weekly Readings XI (11) - TRANS

 Welcome to another addition 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 have a trio of friendship stories from varying perspectives…


-From a bear who’s headgear attracts some unlikely comrades.


-To a little elephant who finds his place in the “Big City.”


-Finally, a blue octopus whose outlook on life doesn’t match his color.


Mr. Brown's Fantastic Hat BIG

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat

by Ayano Imai (今井 綾野)

Publisher: minedition

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2014



If Bear (from the Bear and Mouse series) had a persnickety distant cousin, I’d wager it’d be Mr. Brown, who rather keep to himself, but expresses it via body and language and stern looks to onlookers versus his more verbally charged ursine counterpart.


He takes great pride in his signature hat, which is over three times taller than the furry chap who’s wearing it!


One day, Mr. Brown is alarmed to find a flock a birds have taken roost in his prized hat, from there chaos ensues as Mr. Brown’s attempts to be rid of the feathered fiends proves more and more futile, and inadvertently creates his town’s latest fashion craze.


By this point, Mr. Brown finds himself quite fond of his loyal flock.


As the days went by, and the seasons changed, the bear and his hat-nest of birds grew that little bit closer.


When the birds fly south, Mr. Brown sinks into despair, just when he finally had friends he at first didn’t know he wanted, they’ve left as abruptly as they had first arrived.


Will the fine-feathered flock return to Mr. Brown and his fantastic headgear home?


Ayano Imai’s artwork immediately drew me to this book.


While picture books are famous for bright primary colors or flamboyant pastels, it’s a nice change of pace to see a more subtle and muted palate of earth tone colors and thoughtful plays with light and shadow at play in this book.


If you loved the more muted tones common in Maurice Sendak’s books, this book continues that tradition.


“Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat” is more then what the title first suggests, it’s not just about a loner bear and his best hat, but also how new friends can enter our lives in abnormal ways, and a gentle reminder not to take friendships (however short-lived) for granted.






Little Ellitor, BIG CITY


Little Elliot, BIG CITY

by Mike Curato (@MikeCurato)

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Pub. Date: Aug 26th, 2014


There’s something about cities in books that have this transcendent quality, be they real such as Chicago, Paris, and New York City.


Or the (I wish were real) locales such as Richard Scary’s Busy Town, Geronimo Stilton’s home of New Mouse City, or Pinchester from Michael Hoeye’s Hermux Tantamoq series (I will keep mentioning this series every chance I get until more people read/discuss it-LOL!)



The city in this book serves a visual metaphor of how lost one can feel in the place you call home.


Elliot is a little elephant feeling all too small for his big city home, even home life is tricky to manage when even famously “Mini” New York City apartments are BEYOND roomy if your Elliot’s size.


When Elliot goes out, he’s always dodging crowds of native city dwellers, tourists, street vendors, the list goes on, even buying a “Cheer Me Up” cupcake is trial in adversity when you can’t even reach the sales counter.


One day, Elliot helps someone even smaller than him out of a tight spot, what happens next will make Little Elliot’s BIG CITY world get a lot smaller, in the most pleasant sense of the world.


On this note, I have to digress a bit, but it is in relation to this book. When I first discovered Mike Curato in a very unorthodox way.


I was (BRIEFLY) considering self-publishing my middle grade novel “GABRIEL” when I was have little success enticing agents, and when I was last and active member of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), I was searching an index of illustrators, and Mike Curato was one of the first who caught my eye.


Eventually I realized I didn’t yet have the skills (or finances) to do it in a way that I’d be proud of, but I remembered the illustrator ever since…


I think I might’ve seen an early concept of a scene in “Little Elliot BIG CITY” though I didn’t know that then.


Fast Forward to Spring 2014 when I heard about the book on Twitter, I knew I HAD to check it out, and even before I finished this review you’re reading now, I HAD to create one of my now “famous” fan book trailers (which you can see below…)


All in all, “Little Elliot BIG CITY” is another solid book in a long running tradition of city tales with stunning art and reminds us all why cupcakes are ALWAYS in our hearts and bellies, whether they’re trendy or not. Period.



 Check out our fan book trailer for “Little Elliot, BIG CITY”


Here’s the OFFICIAL created by the publisher-

Which trailer do you like best?

Or what do you like about both trailers?

Share in the comments below!

Last, but FAR from least, your lit. rat gives a retrospective on a character with a origin story as unique as the world he inhabits-



by Dan Yaccarino

Publisher: Atheneum 

(Imprint of Simon & Schuster 


Pub. Date: April 3rd, 2001


I’m one of those folks who LOVES origin stories well told, and for old and new fans of the animated series, this book is essentially the origin story of not only Oswald and Weenie’s arrival, but almost every friend and neighbor we meet on the show.

Sadly, it’s out of print, but worth hunting down (Special Thanks to The Bookbeat for having the copy I bought weeks back), but you can get the audio version on Audible, which is a bit since for picture books visuals are over HALF the experience, but at least it’s easily available and used copies of the book can be as high as 80 USD, but I got my copy for WAY less, so keep hunting, and see if you library has a copy.


Thankfully, the show still lives on via streaming and digital download, and if you weren’t a kid (or had them back when the show debuted in 2001) go watch it, there are few programs with the kind of gentle charm that’s organic and unabashedly comforting.

Learn what is up to now in his upcoming interview on

“KidLit TV” a new joint multimedia initiative created by the kidlit community, for the kid-lit community, launching November 2014, T.A.A. will bring you more info as it nears launch.

That’s all for Weekly Readings. See you next time!