Chester

Melanie Watt, Author, Melanie Watt, Illustrator . Kids Can $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-55453-140-0

This sidesplitting metafiction offers further proof of Watt’s (the Scaredy Squirrel books) extravagantly fresh, cheeky voice. Here, the exasperated author-illustrator engages in a literary tug-of-war with the eponymous marmalade puss, who has a figure like Nero Wolfe and an outsize ego to match. Chester is determined to thwart Watt’s attempts to write a nice little book about a winsome country mouse; using a red magic marker, he writes, “Then Mouse packed his bags and went on a trip very, very far away and we never saw him ever again!” underneath Watt’s opening sentence and attempts to make himself the star of the show. Volleys of creativity and red ink follow: Watt introduces a fierce dog, only to have Chester make him vegetarian; Chester begins a new story set in Chesterville (“where mice weren’t allowed”), but Watt makes it rain, washing his work away. Chester retaliates by caricaturing the author (“Hi. I am Mélanie Watt and I am very angry !” reads a speech bubble), and the mouse even enters the act, complaining, “I can’t work like this!” The closing pages seem to give Watt the upper hand (hint: a humiliating pink tutu is involved), but readers, who will adore Chester’s unbridled self-interest and blatant disregard for artistic integrity, may suspect that this is one kitty who has not yet begun to fight. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)