The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale

Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, illus. by Barry Moser. Peachtree, $16.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-56145-595-9
“He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms.” So opens Deedy (14 Cows for America) and Wright’s (The Silver Penny) spry hybrid of historical fiction and animal story, set at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a real-life pub “famed as a haunt for London writers.” The line refers to Skilley, the mouser at the tavern, where Charles Dickens is struggling to find a lead-in to his new novel. Snippets from Dickens’s journal reveal his suspicions that something’s askew between Skilley and the pub’s substantial mice population. He’s right: Skilley, who prefers eating cheese to mice, has agreed not to harm them if they bring him cheese from the storeroom. Pip, an intellectually minded mouse, teaches himself to write using his tail, a skill that comes in handy at multiple points during the novel. Moser’s graphite illustrations are realistic and wonderfully emotive, especially in combination with the novel’s fresh dialogue, typographical flights of fancy, and wordplay. Expertly realized characters and effervescent storytelling make this story of unlikely friendship, royal ravens, and “the finest cheese in London” a delight. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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