Skip to main content

The Chesire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of A Tale

I don't really do animal stories. There are only two that I have ever read and desired to reread or read aloud to my children. (Charlotte's Web and The Tale of Despereaux) Now a third book can be added to this collection. I saw enough reviews praising The Chesire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale, some written by others also wary of animal stories, that I decided to give it a try. Really, the premise is hard to pass up even for someone like me who is jaded toward the genre. A cat who likes to eat cheese forms a partnership with an Inn full of mice, and then throw Charles Dickens in for good measure. I ask, who can resist that?

He was the Best of Toms. He was the worst of Toms. Fleet of foot, sleek and solitary, Skilley was a cat among cats. Or he would have been, but for a secret he had carried since his youth. A secret that caused him to live in hidden shame, avoiding even casual friendship lest anyone discover-
Skilley, a cat who hates the taste of mice and the feel of them going down, finds the perfect job as a mouser at the Ye Olde Chesire Cheese. He can appear to ferociously chase the mice and in reality eat the cheese. The problem is the cheese isn't so easy to get to for cat. When Skilley makes the acquaintance of an extraordinary mouse named Pip who figures out his secret they strike a deal. Skilley will protect the mice and the mice will provide him with the cheese they have ready access to. Simple enough until a mouse hating serving girl brings in another cat to help with the mouse problem, a vicious killer of a cat who is Skilley's arch nemesis. Then there is the Queen's injured raven being cared for by the mice that needs returning as well. Skilley and Pip have their work cut out for them, and not just when it comes to protecting the mice and helping the raven. They also must learn to confront the difficulties and obstacles they encounter in their most unlikely friendship.

There is lots to like here. The cast of characters is large and quirky, very fitting in a Victorian era novel that is a tribute to Dickens. The mice, the cats, the humans, and the raven are all brought to life vividly through the language of the story. I read an ARC of the book from NetGalley that did not contain the illustrations, and even without the pictures to help the words painted a clear picture of, not just the people, but also the time and place.

And this brings me to what I loved best about the book. The language. It is one of those books that would make a terrific read aloud, so you can savor every word. In fact it might actually work best as a read aloud. It is not just the words chosen but the rhythm of the sentences:
Then Maldwyn gathered himself and stood erect. Once more Skilley witnessed the rising majesty of a Tower raven. Even with his head averted, there was royalty in his form.
"You want the truth, Master Skilley? Find out what manner of cat you really are...and then brazenly, unabashedly, boldly, be that cat."
"You eat cheese." The words emerged from Pinch's clenched jaws with slow hiss.
So, he knows.
Skilley allowed himself an instant of surprise to savor how little he now cared. "Yes. I eat cheese. What's more, my truest friend in this friendless world is a mouse. And I would risk my life for him...

The way the theme of friendship is explored through all of the different relationships is another aspect of the book I quite enjoyed. Particularly when Skilley has hurt Pip and their friendship looks as though it might fall apart. Through the way these creatures interact with each other there are sage glimpses into human nature and relationships. The book is eminently quotable while not being preachy or becoming about any given message.

The average child who is reading this book is not going to get the Dickens references. But they don't have to. His character is portrayed in such a way that you don't have to know and understand his work to appreciate his role. For the adults who might read this book to and with children the allusions are an added amusement.

I very much enjoyed this and highly recommend it to anyone, not just lovers of animal tales. Clearly you don't have to be one of those to appreciate this book.


Betsy said…
Wow! A talking animal book that you recommend? I've got to check it out :-)

Popular posts from this blog

Future Favorite Friday: June 2018

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

Two Naomis was one of my favorite reads of 2016 so I was understandably excited it's getting a sequel. 

In this sequel to Two Naomis, now that Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi E.’s dad are married, the girls have learned to do a lot of things together, like All-Family Sunday dinners, sixth-grade homework, navigating the subway system by themselves, and visiting their favorite bakeries. Until sixth grade in a new school presents a whole new set of surprises and challenges.

Trusting her gut has worked for Naomi E. all her life, and she figures that it will be an asset to her role as a Peer Mediator—until she realizes how much of the job requires the Art of Compromise, which she’s only just starting to get used to at home.

Naomi Marie is excited about maki…

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

From Most Recent to Least:

What books have recently caught your eye?

Lovely War

When I first heard about Lovely War by Julie Berry, I remember thinking, "Whoa, that's ambitious." And it is. The scope and depth of this story with all of its intricacies and thematic elements is massive. Berry manages to hold it all together beautifully. She managed it so beautifully that it is so far my favorite YA read of 2019.

The ecstasies and the wounds of love were Aphrodite's work. Forging passions was what she was born to do. She, too, was a welder, a mistress of fire of a different sort, working in materials more powerful and resistant than carbon and iron. And what did that toil do to her?

In 1942 New York City while men are partying on the eve of shipping off to war, a stunning couple arrives at a hotel in the midst of the revelry and departs for their room followed by an overly enthusiastic bellboy. But none of these figures are as they appear. The couple is Aphrodite and Ares on a secret assignation that turns out to be not so secret as the bellboy is Ap…

Shorter Musings YA Realistic

Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA realistic fiction reads.

American Pandaby Gloria Chao
I bumped this up my TBR list after seeing several really favorable reviews for it in a row. I'm so glad I did. This is an excellent story of the child of immigrants trying to find her place in the world. Mei struggles with how to be herself and the perfect, obedient daughter her parents expect her to be. They have already officially disowned her brother. Mei's journey is one of self-discovery, which is interesting since it is advertised as more fluffy and more of a romance that it truly is. (There is a romance, but it is definitely not the central relationship in the book.) I really loved how much this story was about Mei's relationship with her mom and the complications of relating to each other.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kissby Kasie West
I enjoyed this as the quick, fluffy read it is intended to be. Kasie West is the ultimate at YA romance that is perfect for any age YA re…

TTT: Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Auto-Buy Authors

Here are my auto-buy authors and their most recent or coming soon release. Also, I got stuck on twelve and couldn't cut it down any further. So it's really Top Twelve Tuesday today. Or Thirteen rather as I sort of combined Emma and Genevieve. (I auto-buy all their individual projects too.)

Who are some authors whose books you buy no matter what?

(I don't know what it says about me that there is only one male author on this list, but I don't dislike whatever it is.)