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STARRED REVIEW "He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms." So opens Deedy (14 Cows for America) and Wright's (The SilverPenny) spry hybrid of historical fiction and animal story, set at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a real-life pub "famed as a haunt for London writers." The line refers to Skilley, the mouser at the tavern, where Charles Dickens is struggling to find a lead-in to his new novel. Snippets from Dickens's journal reveal his suspicions that something s askew between Skilley and the pub's substantial mice population. He's right: Skilley, who prefers eating cheese to mice, has agreed not to harm them if they bring him cheese from the storeroom. Pip, an intellectually minded mouse, teaches himself to write using his tail, a skill that comes in handy at multiple points during the novel. Moser's graphite illustrations are realistic and wonderfully emotive, especially in combination with the novel's fresh dialogue, typographical flights of fancy, and wordplay. Expertly realised characters and effervescent storytelling make this story of unlikely friendship, royal ravens, and "the finest cheese in London" a delight. Ages 8 12. (Oct.) --Publishers Weekly
Gr 5-8 The vagaries of tavern life in 19th-century London come alive in this delightful tale. Skilley, a street cat with a secret (he eats cheese!), finds a home at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, where he pretends to be a mouser and gets the attention of Charles Dickens, a frequent customer. Befriended by Pip, a precocious mouse who can read and write, Skilley tries to protect his rodent pals and Maldwyn, an injured royal raven hiding in the garret, from Pinch, a ginger alley cat who s out for every tasty morsel he can get. There are cat-and-mouse battles aplenty. Several subplots are happily resolved: the cook reveals that the mice are her official cheese-tasters; Queen Victoria herself comes to rescue Maldwyn; Mr. Dickens finally finds an opening sentence for his new novel, and more. The fast-moving plot is a masterwork of intricate detail that will keep readers enthralled, and the characters are well-rounded and believable. Language is a highlight of the novel; words both elegant and colourful fill the pages: alacrity, scrivener, thieving moggy. And then there are the Dickensian references: artful dodging of Hansom cabs, Dickens saying he has great expectations. His amusing diary entries, revealing both his writing difficulties and his thoughts about Skilley, and the occasionally fanciful page layouts add to the humour. Combined with Moser s precise pencil sketches of personality-filled characters, the book is a success in every way. Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, The Naples Players, FL --School Library Journal
STARRED REVIEW He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms. And for all his harsh early life and unnatural dietary preferences, ragged London alley cat Skilley gets to look at a queen, too.
Landing a gig as mouser for the chophouse and writers hangout Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a lifelong fantasy come true for both Skilley and the inn s swarm of resident mice because unlike his feline rivals, Skilley adores cheese and has no taste for mice at all. In fact it isn t long before he and Pip, a mouse of parts who has learned to read and write, have become great friends. Deedy and Wright take this premise and run with it, tucking in appearances from Dickens, Thackeray and other writers of the time. Cat and mice unite to face such challenges as the arrival of a cruel new cat named Oliver ( Well, this was an unwelcome twist ), a mysterious cheese thief and, climactically, a wise but injured old raven that is the subject of a country-wide search that culminates in a visit to the inn by Queen Victoria Herself. Moser contributes splendid black-and-white illustrations that manage to be both realistic and funny, recalling Robert Lawson while retaining his own style.
Readers with great expectations will find them fully satisfied by this tongue-in-cheek romp through a historic public House that is the very opposite of Bleak. (Animal fantasy. 10-12) --Kirkus
A dirty alley cat wants nothing more than to find a comfortable spot to call home. When he finds Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, an inn in London, he thinks his search is over. But life there isn't going to be as relaxing as he initially thought, thanks to colorful characters skillfully brought to life in this audio edition by narrators Katherine Kellgren and Robin Sachs. Kellgren's pitch-perfect London dialect is a real delight; it whisks the listener away to another time and place. Enjoyable for both young and old, this audiobook is an undeniably compulsive listen. Ages 8-12. A Peachtree hardcover. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.