CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 5. . . .October 2, 2009.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Reesa Cohen.
Due to an OVERWHELMING amount of fan mail,
I, Chester, am back with an amazing,
brilliant, smart, SUPER new book.
Please forgive Chester.
He’s forgotten to mention
that he wrote all those
fan letters himself.
First and foremost...full disclosure on the part of this reviewer. I am an unabashed fan of this writer/illustrator and her delightful sense of humour.
Yes, Chester and his huge personality are back and in fine form, including Chester’s trusty red marker. From the smug sly smile of this audacious cat, with his sheriff style badge stating “star author” on the book’s cover to front fly leaf, and to the very end of the book, he is in control... sort of.
When we last encountered Chester in Chester (Kids Can Press 2007), he was fighting the author for full credit and writing control. Things have not changed. The duelling author and her cat with the enormous ego are at war once again. Here, Watt's is trying to fashion a fairy tale featuring Chester, but her feisty cat has other plans to make the story all his own. His editing shenanigans include inserting himself in the dedication, adding comments here and there, labelling himself as “the great Chesterdini,” even as Melanie Watt’s hero, and, of course, hopping in and out of pictures.
In frustration, Watt is driven to hold auditions for a replacement cat. When the casting call for a new star is thwarted by her spirited feline, Melanie’s exasperation boils over: “Chester, I give up! What do you want?”
The list of demands from this not so subtle cat includes a limousine, giant billboards, red jelly beans, his name in lights, a bell to ring for mouse, and to be addressed as “Sir Chester.”
However the real creator of this series manages to have the last laugh - until the reader turns to the last page.
Watt has fashioned a lively unforgettable character in Chester and an unusual, wild children’s book that begs to be read aloud. This is a sequel that can be enjoyed without having read the first one, but the enjoyment would be doubled by reading the two together in order to grasp the bizarre but hilarious technique utilized by Watt.
The literary battle between an egotistical, self-confident cat and his owner/author is engaging and wonderfully complemented by bold artwork rendered in pencil and watercolours and assembled digitally. The author/illustrator has creatively mixed illustration styles and has used different colours and fonts in the story. This strategy will help readers differentiate the story within the story and could be used by teachers of older students to shed light on points of view and audience within a story.
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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