Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: The Cheshire Cheese Cat

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale
By Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright , read by Katherine Kellgren and Robin Sachs
Published 2012 by Listening Library

Skilley longs for the comfort of a roof over his head and the ease of meals provided for him, so when he hears that Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is in need of a mouser, he presents himself for the job. In order to keep his secret, though, Skilley soon finds himself in cahoots with a resident mouse.

Like many of my audiobook downloads, this came about mostly through a whim, though I'm getting to the point where I'll listen to pretty much anything read by Katherine Kellgren.

This book reminded me quite a bit of A Nest for Celeste - it features a historical figure that may or may not be familiar to most kids (in this case, Charles Dickens), but tells that person's story secondary to the story of an animal in their world. If the enduring popularity of Ben and Me by Robert Lawson is any indication, this is a pretty good formula for finding an audience of kid readers. I think maybe part of this is the greater freedom an author might feel when writing an animal character. We don't REALLY know what animals would be like if they could talk, and we don't know everything about how they interact in our world, so there's a little more room to play, to create something outlandish and particular that might not work if that character were human. The characters in this book were fun to read about, and I think they definitely have kid appeal.

Perhaps the best thing about this book for me was the language. I've adored some of Deedy's picture books, so I expected that this would be pleasant, but the language really shines, perhaps particularly so in the audio version. Then again, everything probably sounds lovely in Kellgren's voice, but I really think the turns of phrase in this novel are excellent.

Listening to the audio version, I missed out the illustrations by Barry Moser, but I assume they're quite lovely. Overall, I found this a delightful historical fiction tale that will definitely appeal to animal lovers.

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