Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Unlikely Friendship

To thoroughly enjoy The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, illustrated by Barry Moser, you must first accept that a cat (Skilley) could prefer cheese to a mouse

Once you accept that, you are in for a treat. There is in today’s London an inn called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, and although it was rebuilt after a fire, it stands in the same spot where Charles Dickens often dined and wrote. Dickens is the first to notice strange doings in one of his favorite taverns, and that Skilley seems to be catching and releasing the same mouse (Pip) over and over again. But he is not the last.

Various tensions emanate from the situation, and much of the fun of the novel is the discovery of who’s rooting for the mice and who wants them gone. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Adele, the mouse-hating barmaid, brings Skilley’s nemesis, Pinch, to “help” with the mousecatching. Skilley, attempting to hide from Pinch his friendship with Pip, accidentally hurts Pip. Skilley confides in Maldwyn the raven, and their illuminating discussion about how to repair the friendship could serve as a model for children experiencing similar circumstances.

As Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday approaches (on February 7, 2012), this book makes a terrific introduction to the Victorian writer, his humor (his writer’s blocks) and one of his favorite haunts.

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