Celeste, the star of “A Nest for Celeste” by Henry Cole, is a sweet and gentle mouse. She enjoys making beautiful baskets in the safety of her comfy mousehole, which is located within Oakley Plantation in Louisiana. She is occasionally bullied by two nasty, lazy rats, who force her to retrieve food for them from the dining room. The cat is a constant danger in her life, and during one of her food expeditions Celeste is chased away from the safety of her home and must seek refuge in another bedroom.
It turns out that this room is occupied by Joseph Mason, a young apprentice to the great wildlife artist John James Audubon (1785–1851). Mason and Celeste form a tender friendship, and Celeste loves riding in Mason’s pocket around the house and watching him paint.
Unfortunately, Audubon’s methods of capturing the birds’ “natural” beauty often employed such tactics as shooting them and pinning them in life-life poses. Celeste intervenes where she can, soothing the birds and helping them to escape. The hunting scenes and illustrations of pinned birds can be somewhat disturbing.
I passed this on to my nine year-old daughter, who enjoyed it very much. We both enjoyed the beautiful artwork that is incorporated throughout the book and agreed the deckle-edged paper is charming. Altogether, a lovely book that is perfect to be read on a slow, summer day.