A Nest for Celeste

by Henry Cole (2010)

A Sweet Spot selection. 

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

What is a home? Is it a large house? Can it be a cage? The toe of a worn old boot? A nest in a matchbox? A shirt pocket? Or can it be found, instead, in the heart of a friend?

Celeste is a mouse who lives under the floorboards in a plantation home set in the middle of the Louisiana bayou. She shares her space with two unfriendly rats and longs to figure out where home is.

But Celeste’s world begins to change when John James Audubon comes to stay in the plantation home in search of unique land, wildlife, and birds to draw. Audubon’s young apprentice, Joseph, rescues Celeste and the little mouse discovers a friend. Joseph is a boy who is just as lonely and longing as she is.

“Celeste watched Joseph as he ate. That explains the lost look on his face, she thought. He’s a long way from home. And lonely, too.”

The sweet friendship between a young boy and a mouse also brings adventure, excitement, and even danger to Celeste’s life as she searches for her forever home. Readers will delight when Celeste suggests that her friend Cornelius the wood thrush sing to help Joseph get his painting correct and will cheer when she figures out how to set the little bird free. They will also feel Celeste’s fear when her other friend, the osprey Lafayette, is in danger of getting “stuffed and pinned” if he doesn’t find a way to impress Audubon.

“Well, what’ll I do, darlin’?” queried the osprey. “Jump up and down? Clamor around like a parakeet? I’m new at this, you know.”

Throughout A Nest for Celeste, beautiful charcoal illustrations tell this orphaned mouse’s story alongside the expressive language of Henry Cole. Readers will step back in time to learn about 18th-century plantation life and the famous naturalist, John Audubon, while Celeste wrestles with figuring out what home and friendship really mean.

“Was it worth the feelings of sadness and melancholy to make a friend and then lose him? Would she rather not have the heartache of losing a friend and not have the memory of friendship?”

Cole explores weighty issues such as loneliness, loss, the treatment of animals, and even bullying in a book that offers beauty and hope. All of this will lead young readers toward open-ended, thought-provoking discussions while learning about a mouse who is searching for home – and discovering that friendships can be found in the most unexpected places.

 

 

 

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