I was very excited about this one, as it's written by one of my favorite picturebook author/artists, Henry Cole. I liked some of it very much, but some of it not so much. I loved the illustrations, especially the delicate and exquisite drawings of Celeste's baskets. I found the beginning of the book spellbinding, as Celeste is forced to leave her safe and dark nest and find a new place to live.
However, when she meets Audubon's apprentice and the story branches out into a wider landscape, it just didn't work for me. I felt like Cole was imprinting modern mindsets on historical figures - would Audubon's apprentice really have mourned the death of the birds Audubon killed and posed to create his paintings? Celeste's horror of guns didn't feel quite right either. I prefer Holman's Cricket Winter for discussions of life and death from an animal perspective.
But the story is well-written and will appeal to children who like animal stories with an introspective flair. I bought this for my library before I read the story and I would still have purchased it after reading it, despite my reservations. I look forward to seeing more beginning chapter books and middle grade stories from Henry Cole. Celeste's Nest is a little advanced in vocabulary for a beginning chapter book, but the length and the illustrations make it accessible to a younger audience.
Verdict: I think fans of DiCamillo's Despereaux will love this one, and after they've read it I suggest introducing them to Felice Holman's Cricket Winter.
ISBN: 978-0061704109; Published February 2010 by Katherine Tegen Books; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library