The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
I really enjoyed this book. I guess I can't get tired of books about small rodents. Skilley, a closet cheese-loving cat, has struggled living on the streets of London, but on this day, he finds himself, with a little help from Charles Dickens, accepted into the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese to help with a mouse problem. Skilley is not interested in ridding the tavern of mice; he just wants some cheese. He makes a deal with the mouse, Pip, not to attack any of the mice if they will supply him with cheese. Skilley and Pip's friendship grows as does Charles Dickens's writer's block on A Tale of Two Cities. A hidden creature and an alley cat, Pinch, Skilley's most feared enemy, complicate matters in the Ol Cheshire, eventually bringing more trouble to the unlikely friends. I don't want to give manny details because I don't want to give all the story away. So much more happens in the story. It's full of surprises and twists.
The vocabulary is impressive. The focus on friendship is also very inspiring, something I think middle school readers would absorb and appreciate. There are several references to Charles Dickens, London, and the English Royalty that I don't know if many kids would pick up on if they weren't familiar with these topics. (I don't know if I picked up on all of them. For example, I didn't realize the tavern is an actual place where many English writers gathered.) I think this would make an excellent read-aloud for school classrooms and at home. I listened to this book on CD, but reviews I saw said the pencil illustrations by Barry Moser, are superb. This is really an intriguing story well worth the read. Perhaps you can enjoy a nip of cheese or cup of tea while you read.