|Image from KidsCanPress.com|
All Mélanie wants to do is write and illustrate her story about a little mouse who lived in a house in the country. Unfortunately, her cat, Chester, has other ideas. Obviously, the story should be about him, not the mouse, so he ships the mouse off and takes over the book. Mélanie and Chester face off in a battle of wits, each one topping the other’s crazy antics to take over the story. Mélanie wins by putting Chester in a pink tutu, but Chester, as always, gets the last word.
Watt has taken the self-referential book to an extreme and it certainly pays off. Although the readers never see Watt (except in photographs on the first and last pages), her voice is ever present in the story. Watt’s text is written in black, while Chester writes and draws in thick red marker. The illustrations are bright and cheery with the calico Chester always in the spotlight. What begins as a traditional storybook, with text on the left and pictures on the right, becomes a chaotic adventure as Chester writes and rewrites the story wielding his red marker.
Pair this book with titles such as, There are No Cats in this Book, No Bears, A Book or More Bears for a storytime about characters that know they are in books and speak directly to readers. This type of book makes the audience feel like what they say can effect the outcome of the book. Don't be surprised if the kids talk directly to Chester and Mélanie.
Chester is a cat supreme, so pair this with other books about cats for a feline storytime. Try one of the Pete the Cat books. I also love the lesser known My Cat, TheSilliest Cat in the World. Check out the other Chester books by Watts.
Before you read the story, tell the kids that Chester writes all of his words in red and ask them to keep their eyes open for that pesky cat. When you read this book out loud it’s helpful to have very different voices for the two characters so that the audience can differentiate between the two. The Canadian Book Cenre also suggests using a Chester mask or cat puppet to make the two characters easier to identify.
Follow up with a cardboard tube cat, which you can paint to look like Chester. Or grab those paper plates (you have a stash leftover from summer picnics, right?) and turn them into paper plate cats.