John James Audubon Archives - Eva Varga

June 28, 20102

I love quality children’s literature. Living books that captivate their readers and cast a spell over them. A Nest for Celeste is one such book – inviting young readers into a fascinating story of a young boy as he begins an apprenticeship.

A Nest for Celeste: A Story of About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home is Henry Cole’s first book for older readers.  Beautiful drawings accompany the text in a style that is sure to engage young readers and encourage them that the 352 pages is not as daunting as it appears.

Celeste is a lonely little mouse in search of a home. She has lost her family and has found a new home inside a plantation house where she must watch out for the family cat and two nasty rats. Her life truly changes when she is caught by John James Audubon’s new apprentice Joseph. He, too, is lonely and looking for a friend, and he finds that in the mouse he names “Little One”.

Celeste has several adventures on the Louisiana plantation. Here she learns about friendship and what truly makes a home.  While this is a simple story, Celeste is an engaging character who has some human characteristics. At one point Cole refers to Celeste using her hands instead of her paws, but for the most part the reader believes that she is a mouse. The drawings are soft and do much to further the emotion of the story.

A Nest for Celeste charcoal art

Sensitive readers are forewarned that there is some violence in the book, but it is brief and not at all gratuitous.  After all, it is a story about a little mouse who is looking for a home.  You can imagine what happens when she meets up with cats and other predators.

While Celeste loves watching Joseph draw and being carried around in his pocked they are both horrified by the ways Audubon collects the birds that he is drawing.  This is one aspect of the book that I loved; how Joseph and Celeste address the notion of having to kill animals to be able to paint or draw them.

The story is compelling and the characters, both animal and human, are multi-dimensional and interesting.  Henry Cole is a talented illustrator whose charming charcoal drawings bring the story to life.