Chester is more than a picture book. It is a story told, and retold, by dueling author-illustrators.
Melanie Watt starts out with the story of a mouse in a house. Then Melanie’s cat, Chester, sends the mouse packing and proceeds to cover the pages with rewrites from his red marker, and the gloves are off. Melanie and her mouse won’t take Chester’s antics lying down. And Chester is obviously a creative powerhouse with confidence to spare. Where will this war of the picture-book makers lead? Is it a one-way ticket to Chesterville, or will Melanie get her mouse production off the ground?
Chester by Mélanie Watt belongs to the Activating Prior Knowledge section of the Touchstone Books. Books found in this section contain elements could distract students, or may not be common knowledge in format or text delivery. These books are ideal for focusing student knowledge of text prior to reading, and get them thinking about what is they will be reading.
Chester is a very unique kind of book. The story is taken over by the author’s cat, Chester, who uses a red marker and writes over the story about a mouse, turning it into a story about him. The author and Chester interact through the text, with humourous results. The story is not actually the one about the mouse, but rather, about Chester’s attempts to take over the story. Children will be engaged with the illustrations and Chester’s behaviour, and the story makes an ideal shared reading book. Due to the nature of the layout of the story, it would be beneficial for students to actively engage them in critically thinking about the story before they begin reading. This will help keep their attention focused on the text even with the unfamiliar layout.
Time: 1 hour
Read Chester as a shared reading with the students. Make frequent stops during the reading to discuss when Chester is ‘speaking’ or when the author Mélanie is ‘speaking’.
– How do we know Chester is writing?
– What other books have we seen like this, with the author speaking in the story?
Ask different students to help you read Chester’s parts in the story to better help keep the two voices in the book separate. As the book is being read, make note of the story about the mouse getting lost in the background.
– I wonder how the story was supposed to go.
– What do you think the mouse is doing while Chester is misbehaving?
Once the story is read, write the line of the mouse story on chart paper.
– “Once upon a time there was a mouse. He lived in a house in the country.” (pg. 1)
Create the story together as a class. Ask students to contribute a sentence each to the short story, reminding them about the conventions of fiction – a beginning, a middle, and an end. Use different coloured markers to make each student’s sentence clear. Engage students in helping to spell words, insert punctuation and check for clarity. Does the story make sense? Are the words being used proper language? Etc.
Once the story is complete, laminate the chart paper and place up in the classroom by the Word Wall.