Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole

Subtitle: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home

A Nest for Celeste is a story about friendship. Celeste, a mouse, has two ill-favored friends in the rats Illianna and Trixie. They taunt and abuse Celeste. Luckily, a cat catches Illianna, and Trixie disappears. The incident with the cat leaves Celeste homeless. She ventures upstairs and befriends Joseph, young assistant to the painter John James Audubon.

Celeste doesn't like the way Audubon gets his pictures (killing and posing the birds with wire). She encourages first Cornelius (a wood thrush) and then Lafayette (an osprey) to pose beautifully for Joseph and Audubon. Thus, she saves their lives.

The cat necessitates yet another move for Celeste. This time she ventures into the attic and discovers the perfect house for a mouse--a dollhouse. Joseph and Audubon leave. Cornelius flies south for the winter, but he sends Celeste a new friend, Violet (a wren). Celeste and Violet settle down to endure the winter companionable in the dollhouse.

What I thought: A delightful story with charming illustrations. A Nest for Celeste may only be a story about a mouse, but it's a first class adventure story. Villains, storms, and friends all combine to make it a quick read. I read the book with great enjoyment. The illustrations are just lovely. So reminiscent of Garth Williams (Charlotte's Web and the Little House books). The soft pencil of the illustrations set just the right tone for the book.

Favorite Illustrations: Celeste with Cornelius in cage (chapter 16), Celeste and toad (chapter 17), Lafayette and Celeste (chapter 20), Lafayette with Celeste in gondola (chapter 23), Parrots (chapter 23), Cornelius and Celeste (chapter 25), Celeste and Violet (chapter 37)

After learning about Audubon's methods, I am very thankful we have (digital) photography today. While I understand what Audubon wanted to achieve, I can't help but cringe at his methods. Those poor birds!

Favorite quote: "She thought of Cornelius and Lafayette; and as she offered a berry to Violet, she thought how good it was to have friends" (last page).

(New York: Katherine Tegan, March 2010. ARC provided by Publisher.)

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