Book Review: A Nest For Celeste by Henry Cole

A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home is illustrator Henry Cole’s first full-length novel.  This fanciful tale geared for children features a mouse named Celeste, who is looking for the safety and comfort of a home.  Along the way, she discovers unexpected friendships, danger, adventure, and an appreciation for art and music.

As an experienced illustrator of children’s books, Henry Cole peppers A Nest for Celeste with black-and-white sketches interspersed throughout the text on almost every page.  Though it is over 300 pages long, the large print and delightful illustrations still make it appropriate for younger readers, while the story itself would capture the imaginations of older readers as well.  The book features both male and female main characters, which would appeal to young readers of both genders.

In the story, Celeste befriends a teenage boy by the name of Joseph Mason, who works as an apprentice to John James Audubon.  Both Audubon and Mason are based on true characters who traveled throughout the United States cataloguing and painting images of American birds.  John James Audubon is the inspiration behind the name for the National Audubon Society, whose mission it is to protect birds and their natural habitats.

“Celeste was paralyzed, gripped around the chest with fear, unable to breathe much less jump or even move.  Instinct told her to at least wiggle and squirm, but she could not.  Her deep brown eyes could only stare at Joseph, whose own blue eyes showed that he meant no harm; they twinkled in bemusement.”

This book is geared towards middle grade youth.  The writing flows well, is intelligent, and is not overly toned down for young readers.  While the adventures are engaging and the illustrations superb, some of the plot meanders a bit at certain points.  There are times when it is unclear how much importance the peripheral characters serve.  Nonetheless, it is still an enjoyable read, and the illustrations alone are enough to keep the reader turning each page.

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