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A Nest for Celeste
A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home
Henry Cole
A NEST FOR CELESTE has been selected by Amazon as a Best Book of the Month of March.
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A beautifully illustrated novel about a mouse, her friendship with Audubon's apprentice, and her search for home. Beneath the crackled and faded painting of a horse, underneath the worn and dusty floorboards of the dining room, lives Celeste, a mouse who spends her days weaving baskets, until one day she is thrust into the world above. Here Celeste encounters danger—and love—unlike any she's ever imagined. She dodges a hungry cat and witnesses the brutality of hunting for the first time. She makes friends with a singing thrush named Cornelius, a talkative osprey named Lafayette, and Joseph, Audubon's young apprentice. All the while, Celeste is looking for a new home. Is her home in the toe of a worn boot? Nestled in Joseph's pocket? Or in the dollhouse in the attic, complete with mouse-size furniture perfect for Celeste? In the end, Celeste discovers that home is really the place deep inside her heart, where friendships live.

Fantasy and natural history blend comfortably in illustrator Cole’s (Jack’s Garden) first novel, as a Louisiana plantation—where wildlife artist John James Audubon and his young assistant, Joseph, stayed for several months in 1821—provides the setting for this story of a gentle, brave mouse’s search for a home. Persecuted by bad-tempered rats and on the run from a predatory house cat, Celeste is rescued by Joseph, who nurtures and confides in her, carrying her in his pocket while he and Audubon seek birds and plants to illustrate. The volume and cinematic quality of Cole’s naturalistic pencil drawings recall The Invention of Hugo Cabret; they pull readers into Celeste’s world, capturing her vulnerability, courage, and resourcefulness (an expert basket weaver, she constructs her own means of rescue when lost). Away from humans, Celeste converses freely with other animals; in Joseph’s presence, however, Celeste bears witness to the cruel (by contemporary standards) methods Audubon used to create his drawings, one of a few moments that might trouble more sensitive readers. Evocative illustrations, compelling characters, and thoughtful reflections on the nature of home combine to powerful effect.
—Publisher's Weekly (*Starred Review*)
Starting outside a house, the reader’s viewpoint moves indoors page by page until there “sat Celeste, hunched over her work table” under the floorboards. Celeste’s a mouse, her nest cozy and treasured—until it becomes unsafe, forcing her to look elsewhere for her own sheltered spot to call home. Her antagonists are bullying rats, a housecat, a rainstorm and blustery humans hosting John James Audubon as their guest. Celeste befriends Audubon’s 15-year-old assistant, Joseph, advising birds how to pose for portraits (and becoming horrified when Audubon pins down wings to force positions). Cole’s complexly shaded pencil drawings are a wonder of shifting angle and scale. Often his pencil work wholly covers entire spreads; the type lies on top of the drawing without dominating the aesthetic. Some drawings are smaller, but the art steadily resides at the heart of this uniquely beautiful depiction of 1821 Lousiana (plantation house, wildlife, trees) and a sweet, guileless mouse searching for a nest and friends. A rare gift: a novel with artwork as whole and vital as a picture book’s.
—Kirkus (*Starred Review*)