The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright drawings by Barry Moser
Stories will talking animals are hit or miss for me (usually miss) I can't articulate why only a few work for me or what it is I like but I know it when I see it. Like Underneath by Appelt or Whittington by Armstrong this hits the mark.
The Cheshire Cheese Cat is co-author Deedy's first early reader and an excellent one at that. The story is a fun hat tip to Charles Dickens featuring a cat named Skilley with a secret. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is an inn known for having the best cheese in London. They also have a mouse problem. Skilley the only street cat that doesn't have a taste for mice bought into to Ye Olde to kept the population down. This is perfect for Pip, the mouse in charge. Pip and Skilley make an arrangement so everyone is happy. Everything is going well until Pinch a very vicious cat is hired. Pip and Skilley have to be extra careful that their secret isn't discovered.
When I started reading this I couldn't put it down. It's one of those books that makes me wish I had a fireplace to read by. Moser's illustrations which are sprinkled throughout are lovely. Along with the short chapters make this a great choice for a read aloud. There's another layer to this story involving a Raven that makes it that much more intigruing. The Cheshire Cheese Cat has everything, adventure, unlikely friendship, danger. and beautiful language.
"Scat, cat!" A broom came down hard out of London's cold and fog. Startled, Skilley leapt sideways and the broom whiffled empty air. The cat however, refused to scat. He eyed the dead fish then the broom, calculating the distance between the two. "Off now, you thieving moggy," the fishmonger shrilled. As if reading his thoughts, she kicked the fish under her stall and cocked the broom for another swing. Fishwives. the curse of London cats. With a flick of his peculiar tail, Skilley turned his back to the woman, putting all the disdain he could muster into the sway of his hips."
Deedy and Wright have collaborated to create a wonderful story. A 2011 favorite that I believe is a serious contender for the Newbery.
Three Starred Reviews - Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.