Cover image for A nest for Celeste : a story about art, inspiration, and the meaning of home
A nest for Celeste : a story about art, inspiration, and the meaning of home
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Katherine Tegen Books, c2010.
Physical Description:
342 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.
Reading Level:
730 L Lexile
Celeste, a mouse longing for a real home, becomes a source of inspiration to teenaged Joseph, assistant to the artist and naturalist John James Audubon, at a New Orleans, Louisiana, plantation in 1821.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available

On Order



A fanciful history lesson for middle graders, featuring a charming mouse named Celeste.

Celeste is a mouse who is looking for a home. Is it nestled in the toe of a warm boot? In the shirt pocket of Celeste's new friend Joseph? Or is home the place deep inside Celeste's heart, where friendships live?

Beautifully illustrated with hundreds of black-and-white drawings, A Nest for Celeste is a short novel that tells the story a mouse living in the 1800s and his friendship with John James Audubon's young apprentice. While enjoying this sweet amd appealing story, young readers will also learn about nineteenth-century plantation life and the famous naturalist who was known for his paintings of birds and American wildlife.

Author Notes

Henry Cole has illustrated more than fifty books for children including The Leprechaun's Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards, Little Bo by Julie Andrews, and On Meadow Street, which he wrote. His first novel was A Nest for Celeste.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

After being kicked out of her home then chased by the plantation cat, mouse Celeste runs across the path of John Audubon's assistant Joseph Mason. When Mason rescues Celeste, the two form a friendship, and Celeste discovers a world she never realized was right beyond her mouse hole. Cole's combination of accessible text and detailed illustrations works well to tell the story. Copyright 2010 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Primarily known as a picture-book artist, Cole now offers a chapter book that devotes only a little more space to text than to illustrations. Celeste, a kindly little mouse, lives below the dining-room floorboards in a rural Louisiana home. Though initially bullied by two rats, Celeste's lot improves when John James Audubon comes to stay at the house, teach the owner's daughter to dance, and paint local birds. Joseph, Audubon's young assistant, befriends Celeste, and her warm friendships with Joseph, a thrush, and an osprey make up most of the tale. When Celeste has harrowing encounters with the rats, the household cat, and a storm-swollen creek, her friends are there to help when mere pluck is not enough. A historical afterword comments on Audubon and Joseph. The episodic story is nicely told, but the softly shaded pencil drawings bring it to life through Cole's exceptional ability to imbue animals with personality without making them cartoonlike. A good choice for young readers seeking longer books.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-At Oakley Plantation near New Orleans, temporary home to naturalist John James Audubon and his assistant, Joseph Mason, lives a mouse named Celeste. Industrious and sweet, she forages for food in the dining room and weaves baskets of grass. Unfortunately, she is harassed by resident rats, and, attempting to assuage their hunger, she is trapped by a cat and unable to return to her nook under the floorboards. A chase brings her to Mason's room and there develops a friendship between the homesick apprentice and the little mouse. It unfolds that Audubon is no PETA advocate-he hires hunters to shoot birds so that he can pose them for his drawings. Some of the story is devoted to Celeste's persuading captured birds to pose of their own volition and so save themselves. The theme espoused by the book's subtitle is not well developed, however. Celeste does search for a home, and readers are shown the two naturalists drawing and feeling frustrated when the art does not come easily, but Cole's description of the emotions inherent in the theme does not evoke them in readers. The story's bittersweet conclusion is similarly unsatisfying. What sets the book apart are the charming pencil illustrations that appear throughout, sometimes filling whole pages-a story about making art, full of art.-Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus 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 treasureduntil 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. (afterword) (Animal fantasy. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.