Book Review: Animals at the Office

Book Description:

It’s Gator’s first day at his new office job, and he is surrounded by quirky personalities like the slow slug, the obedient dog, the aggressive hawk, and the chatty chicken. He is eager to fit in with his new co-workers, so he tries to be like them. But acting like everyone else doesn’t work out for him, and he learns a valuable lesson about himself instead.

Featuring hand-drawn illustrations, vibrant colors, and rhymes, Animals at the Office sparks dialogue regarding first-day jitters, fitting in with new crowds, and embracing one’s own special traits despite being surrounded by others who are different.

Adults may relate to the featured characters based on their own experiences at an office and can use the book to talk more with children about their own job and what going to work means for them.

Book Details:

Book Title:  Animals at the Office by Sarah Sommer
Category:  Children’s Fiction (Ages 3-7),  40 pages
Genre:  Picture Book
Publisher:  Sarah Sommer
Release date:   October 2020
Content Rating:  G. Children’s picture book with no adult topics or language

My Review:

Many children’s books are fascinating to kids, but not necessarily attractive to adults. This is a book that tries to capture the attention of both audiences. It will appeal to any parent who has ever worked in an office while depicting cute animals that appeal to kids.

The story focuses on an alligator who is trying to fit in well at work, but the lessons apply to fit in anywhere. After we read this book, my son and I talked about fitting in on the soccer field, playground, at school, in swim class, and in just about any other place where a group of kids might congregate. The goal is to be yourself rather than believing you have to act like everyone else around you.

My five-year-old enjoyed the images in this book. He had a few favorite animals like the slug and the wise old owl.

This would be a great book to use as an introduction to work and careers with young children. Kids are often curious about what it’s like to go to work each day. I think this story would be a great starting point for those conversations.

Meet the Author:

Sarah Sommer enjoys working with words in a way that makes the story feel musical and rhythmical, which is a reflection of her first career in music as a professional clarinetist. She is passionate about animals and enjoys nature, the arts, and dark chocolate.

Author Interview:

Besides children’s books, what do you like to read?

I am fascinated by behavioral economics.  In particular, I enjoyed Freakonomics (Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner), Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely), and Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell).  I find the research behind our everyday decisions fascinating, especially when these authors reveal the psychology behind certain marketing tactics or quirky human tendencies.

In Animals at the Office, do you relate to a specific character?

Absolutely.  I have felt like Gator, the main character, a few times in my life.  When you’re new to a school, group, or job, it’s easy to want to be like everyone else in order to fit in.  It’s tough to feel different, and even harder to feel rejected from that environment because of your differences.  Sometimes I find that my stories reflect how I wish things had happened in my own life, so I often write the main character as a reflection of myself. 

What special activity have you tried while traveling?

Last summer, I traveled to Montana to visit friends, and they took us on a fly-fishing raft trip down a long mountain river.  I don’t fish, so I watched the scenery, which was stunning.  Being a Midwesterner, I did not know how to dress properly and spent the time freezing cold, but it was such a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.

Any advice for budding writers?

Be creative.  My perception is that readers are looking for stories that reflect their modern lifestyle and include a plot beyond the typical “good night” story.  There is a lot of room for creativity within storylines, characters, and format. 

What kinds of business decisions go into self-publishing a book?

There’s the immediate concern of budgeting and finding a way to make a profit.  But there are also other considerations such as legal contracts if you’re collaborating with someone, sales tax exemptions and certificates if you plan to sell yourself, and deciding how to organize your business (e.g., sole proprietorship or incorporation) and handle your income taxes.  The accountant in me always recommends checking with an accountant and/or lawyer regarding these types of decisions.

Favorite writing snack?

Dark chocolate, especially dark chocolate-covered nuts.  I definitely have a sweet tooth, but not for the regular treats like cakes and cupcakes.  I prefer tart candies and fruits or rich chocolate flavors.

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