A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole

TITLE: A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home
AUTHOR: Henry Cole
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books (An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)
PUBLISHED: March 1, 2010
NUMBER OF PAGES: 342

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On our way to a bowl game in California last week, I should have been thinking about my team and bringing home a win.  But I was doing great with my winter break book-a-day, and I was determined to get in my daily titles (packing 3 books for a 3-day trip). Sitting in my window seat on the plane before takeoff, I opened my first book and from then on, I didn’t hear the usual sounds or feel the usual inconveniences that one encounters when flying. I didn’t think about our quarterback or the weather on the field at game time.  At some point during the trip, I think the flight attendant brought me a diet Coke, but I hardly remember that. I also didn’t chat with my husband  (who flew with me). He ended up taking a well-deserved nap.

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Why was I so oblivious to my surroundings?

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I was reading A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole.

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From the beginning, I was completely captivated by Celeste, a crafty and responsible little mouse separated from her family.  Alone under the floorboards, she weaves baskets expertly, and navigates her environment with cleverness. Despite the rats that bully her, she is content. But after an encounter with a cat, she is forced from her home and all that she has known.  Navigating her way in the plantation house, she settles into the boot of a young apprentice named Joseph.  Joseph is an assistant to John James Audubon (who also lives in the house while he paints Louisiana birds).  From this place, Celeste learns to trust, form friendships, and even plays a part in assisting in one of Audubon’s works.  She risks her life for her friends and faces her fears with courage. The story is told simply, but in a way that causes the reader to very much adore this little mouse.  With every turn of the page, I was more impressed with Celeste’s artistry, her consideration for others, and her wit.  Her ultimate goal is a permanent home.  We all want to belong somewhere, and we all want someone to care for us, so you (the reader) begin to hope for her, too. Nestled in the story is a view of Audubon’s work and methods. (Having just read Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, I was very interested in this part of the book.)   Henry Cole has created a treasure in A Nest for Celeste. (Another beautiful part of this book: Cole’s illustrations– perfectly drawn and precisely placed.)

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There is plenty of adventure in this book to entertain young readers, and I’ve already tagged it as my next read-aloud in my classroom (Celeste’s new home).

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I finished the book just as we landed, and my husband tells me it was a pleasant flight. I believe him.

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In a way, I felt this book helped carry me way just as much as the plane did.  (By the way, we won the game, too.)

Cynthia Alaniz

Twitter: @utalaniz
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Bio:
Cynthia is a 4th grade teacher in Texas. She is the grade level team leader and Language/Literacy Content Specialist for her campus and a National Writing Project Teacher-Consultant.  Besides being a member of the Nerdy Book Club (and the owner of many towering book stacks), she is also a loyal Texas Longhorn fan.