Celeste is a mouse who used live under the sideboard in the dinning room of a plantation house outside of New Orleans. When she is bullied one night by the two resident rats, Celeste ventures too far into the house and must race upstairs to avoid the cat.
Fortunately, she is discovered by Joseph, a young teenager who is apprenticed to John Audubon, the famous artist. Both Celeste and the boy are lonely, and they strike up a sort of friendship. Joseph feeds the mouse and lets her sleep in his shirt pocket.
Joesph takes Celeste with him when he goes on exploring trips into the surrounding countryside and lets her sit on the desk when he draws. While Celeste is with the teenager, she has the chance to meet and make friends with several different kinds of birds, including ospreys, swallows, and wrens.
Eventually, she finds the perfect house for herself up in the attic, safe from the cat. She is worried about being lonely again, but thanks to a broken window, her bird friends can come visiting.
Henry Cole's A Nest for Celeste is fiction, but according to the author's afterword, it is true that Audubon and his assistant lived on a Louisiana plantation for several months in 1821. Some of the methods Audobon used to create his famous paintings were less than kind to the birds he immortalized.
A Nest for Celeste provides parents and middle-grade readers with a basis for discussing issues involving friendship, kindness to animals, and the meaning of home. Although the novel is illustrated on almost every page, this is not a picture book or a book for only the very young.
The black and white pencil (or are they charcoal?) drawings are lovely and are in the style shown on the cover. I was unable to find any drawings to share, and the book wouldn't sit flat on my scanner, but the book trailer includes some of the artwork.
A Nest for Celeste was a spring 2010 Indie Next pick for kids. Henry Cole has a website where you can view a different book trailer and see a variety of his illustrations for other children's books. The HarperCollins website allows you to take a peek inside the novel.
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Published by HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, 2010
Challenges: Young Adult, New Author, 100+
Source: Review (see review policy)