Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A nest for Celeste : A story about art, inspiration and the meaning of home by Henry Cole

This book is beautifully designed.  The paper has deckle edges, the cover is warm and inviting and each of the illustrations inside the book are so tactile you just want to stroke the pages.

A nest for Celeste is another book I picked up while doing our library stocktake or inventory.  If you enjoyed the illustrations in Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret you will want to flip through A nest for Celeste.  Then you will need to settle into a comfy chair and let yourself sink into this wonderful story.

Celeste has come to live in a large plantation house near New Orleans.  Celeste is a mouse and she has created a small home under the skirting boards.  Living in the house with Celeste is the famous bird painter Audubon and his assistant Joseph.  It is Joseph who befriends Celeste and as she accompanies him Celeste is able to see just how Audubon creates the famous illustrations we can see today in Birds of America.  There are only 119 copies of this book still in existence and one sold in 2005 for over 5 million dollars.  While the painting of birds in this book are absolutely amazing, through the eyes of Celeste we discover the brutal truth.  Each of the birds has in fact been killed and then wired into position for drawing.  There are some quite disturbing sections in this book but I still highly recommend it.

"Then they heard the guns.  They were firing from every direction, with blasts of buckshot that bought down several of the beautiful birds at once. ... wave after wave were shot, and the birds fell like hailstones."  One lucky bird, though, is bought in alive and Celeste is able to set him free.

Celeste is a wonderful character.  She is creative - weaving exquisite baskets. She is compassionate, she is so courageous and she is highly intelligent.

The nest referred to in the title is a wonderful old dolls house.
"Through the dim light she saw an enormous four-poster bed covered with a soft, pink blanket. Two satin pillows were trimmed in tiny lace ribbon.  Beside the bed was a small table draped with a lace cloth. Against a wall stood a wooden armoire with flowers and vines painted up the sides and on each door.  A large overstuffed chair sat perched on a small rug ... the bed was stuffed with cotton balls and she sank blissfully into it. ... 'I've found home,' she said to herself.  'There is nowhere else I'd rather be."

All is well in her beautiful new home until a dreadful rat, a past enemy, discovers her new home. Luckily Celeste is able to dispose of this rat Trixie in a most satisfying away.

You can see more art work by Henry Cole on his web site.  You might like to read this review which should convince you to look for A nest for Celeste.  This book would make a good read-aloud to a class of Grade 4 students.  Here are some very detailed teaching notes.

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