A Nest for Celeste: A Story about Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home
By Henry Cole
Published 2010 by Katherine Tegen Books
Celeste lives a quiet life under the floorboards of her plantation. But her quiet life is about to be disturbed as her plantation plays host to the famous naturalist John James Audubon and his young assistant. The arrival of these two men will lead Celeste to discover the true meaning of friendship and the strength she carries within.
The library I work at collaborates with the Friends of the Library each year and selects a community read. They choose a main title, usually suitable for teens and adults, and two companion titles, suitable for ages 0-7 and 8-12 each. This year's main selection was Okay for Now (read my review here). With its focus on art and healing, the companion titles were chosen - My Dog Thinks I'm a Genius by Harriet Ziefert for the younger crowd, and this for the middle-grade readers. We usually try to do some programming around the titles (though I think there is room for more connection with the community read) and people often ask about the titles, so I knew I wanted to be sure to read this selection. It had actually caught my eye when it was first released - I liked the subtitle and the cover illustration indicated a sweet and hopeful story. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again - I'm not a big fan of talking animal books. However, this story is so absolutely charming and inspiring that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved Celeste - I think kids will really relate to her. I really loved the plot of this book - Celeste lives in a big plantation which becomes host to John James Audubon and his young assistant. Celeste watches them painting birds and soon befriends the young assistant. She is an artist herself (she is weaving her practical and beautiful baskets on the cover). I also like that the book doesn't shy away from depicting Audubon's practices - he often killed his avian subjects and posed them as he pleased. I think kids should hear about this and it makes a great discussion point. I think this book works really well with our other selections - Celeste learns about art and inspiration and friendship. This was a wonderfully sweet story and I'm glad it was chosen for our community read.