Wednesday, September 21, 2011


By Mélanie Watt

(Kids Can Press, 2007)

Sometimes we battle our inner demons. Other times, we must spar with our imaginary cats. Well, at least, that is Mélanie Watt’s predicament. Chester is a story that, by its very design, never develops. That is because Watt’s efforts to tell a happy tale about a mouse are repeatedly interrupted and sabotaged by an arrogant, attention-seeking, bloated feline named Chester who has more advanced writing and drawing skills than your average cat. Throughout the book, Chester is armed with a red marker and he is not afraid to use it.

The adventure plays out like a comedy improv scene. Watt draws Mouse’s house and shows the contented rodent perched in a comfy chair. Watt’s text appears in simple black font. Enter Chester. He adds text with his handy red marker, sending Mouse off on a permanent vacation (“Hasta la vista, Mousie!”). The house now belongs to Chester and he changes the decor with the same marker.

Watt recovers and inserts more black text. Mouse returns from a lovely Mexican vacation with a new pal: a monstrous looking dog! Chester, of course, must respond to this twist. This MUST go back to being all about the glorious (and safe) cat.

It’s a clever book, a scuffle between writer/illustrator and story book character. This is a very different kind of picture book, one that will greatly amuse young audiences. The story would be a good icebreaker before reading fractured fairy tales like Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. As well, Chester may be a springboard to looking at other stories and posing What If twists. What happens if another character enters a story?

With able readers, Chester makes an excellent buddy read. One person can read all of Watt’s text in black while the other read’s Chester’s parts in red. Back and forth, back and forth. Laughter is guaranteed. As an alternative Mom and Dad can each take a part or two teachers can take on the different personalities. This is classic comedy, one character reacting to the continued shenanigans of a zany, irrepressible sidekick.

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