Sunday, March 13, 2011

Children's Book Monday

A Nest for Celeste
A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home 
written and illustrated by Henry Cole

I know the jist of the saying, but in reality, I find "Don't judge a book by its cover" so silly because as most selective mamas know, a cover can say so much about the inside of a book.  Take this quiet cover. Even the title is delightful, isn't it?  It spoke to me since house hunting has consumed too many months of our family's last two years. Through the discouragements and disappointments, I've come to understand that home is more than the place where we live, more than square footage and number of bedrooms.  But, really, I am ready for a nest to call my own.

The cover also reveals the author.  We love Henry Cole's picture books Trudy and On Meadowview Street and were eager to devour this longer, meatier chapter book.  (Also, penciled onto our calendar is a meet-the-author event with Henry Cole at a local library so reading another of his books became of the utmost importance!)

And the cover illustration sets the tone for the pictures tucked between the pages.  Even Owen (who at age four is still reluctant to commit to chapter books) could get into this one because it was like a super-sized picture book, with pencil sketches framing words on almost every page and even claiming entire double-page spreads. 

Nest For Celeste is the story of a mouse longing for a home where she can feel safe from the rats and cats who roam the large New Orleans plantation where she lives.  In the summer of 1821, she befriends Joseph, the young assistant to John James Audubon.   (Joseph Mason was the real-life teenage helper to Audubon.  He was a talent in his own right and often painted the background foliage in Audubon's works.)

Celeste makes other friends, too, like the osprey she thinks may eat her and the thrush with the beautiful voice whom she dares to rescue.  The book was so chock full of learning that we counted it as nature study when it was too cold to go outside.  We learned about the Pirrie family who owned the Louisiana plantation where Audubon and Joseph lived and worked for four months.  (History?)  We read about the method Audubon used to make his paintings come alive.  (Art study, anyone?) We crammed in chapters at a time while sitting at the school table in the mornings and we slipped in a few more in the evenings after supper.

But truly, we read for the pure joy of this captivating book.   

Visit Kathi's place today for another read-aloud.  
And won't you consider joining Elise at her quiet spot for a new book idea each Monday? 

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