Skip to main content

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

written and illustrated by Henry Cole

Celeste, a recently orphaned young mouse, lives under the floorboards in the dining room at the Pirrie plantation home near New Orleans. She watches and waits patiently until the coast is clear --- neither person nor animal within sight, sound, or smell --- and then she ventures onto the dining room floor to pick up crumbs and bits of food. Whether it is a scrap of bacon, a bit of biscuit, or a prized piecrust crumb, Celeste quickly gathers them all, places them in her tiny handwoven basket and scampers back to safety. Once again she has avoided the furtive cat, the huge dog and the humans. But two big bullying rats nip at her and steal most of her food. Life in the big house may be one of luxury for the human residents, but survival is a daily struggle for tiny Celeste.

Famous wildlife artist Audubon and his young assistant, Joseph, are temporarily living on the plantation. Audubon hunts birds, which he often kills so that he can pose them to appear as lifelike models for his many sketches and paintings. What a cruel thing to do to such lovely creatures, but this was nearly two centuries ago and things were done much differently then. Joseph sketches and paints much of the botanical background for his teacher. He realizes he has a great opportunity to learn from Audubon, but the young lad is quite homesick and lonely.

Because the cat discovered Celeste's hiding place, Celeste is once again on the move and seeking safety. She finds refuge upstairs in the toe of Joseph's boot. When Joseph discovers the little mouse, they quickly become friends. Now Celeste has a safe spot in his shirt pocket and a bird's-eye view of her surroundings. Still, life is hardly idyllic at Pirrie Plantation. Joseph is winged in the head during a hunting accident and is increasingly upset by the hunting of birds, which he believes is a cruel way to locate lifelike models. Celeste encounters a wood thrush named Cornelius, caged for Audubon's study. While hunting the very hungry Cornelius some dogwood berries, Celeste gets lost and is swept far away from home during a dreadful storm. Rescue finally arrives in the form of a very talkative osprey named Lafayette. Celeste returns home and frees Cornelius from his cage, who promptly flies away.

Once again the menacing cat locates Celeste, and frantically she climbs the tall staircase --- no easy task for a tiny mouse --- and finds herself in a musty, dusty attic. There she discovers a real treasure: a fully furnished dollhouse with mouse-sized furniture. Now she feels at home, but misses being near Joseph. As the story continues, the diminutive mouse learns much more about freedom, friendship and a place called home.

This unusual piece of historical fiction comes alive through author Henry Cole’s carefully chosen words and charming pencil artwork. The reader will not soon forget little Celeste and her many adventures.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on February 23, 2010

A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home
written and illustrated by Henry Cole

  • Publication Date: February 23, 2010
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • ISBN-10: 0061704105
  • ISBN-13: 9780061704109