The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale

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Tired of dodging fishwives’ brooms and carriage wheels, alley cat Skilley yearns for the comfort of Ye olde Cheshire Cheese, a popular London inn. When he hears that the innkeeper is in need of a mouser, he hatches a scheme so audacious it will surely set him up for the rest of his nine lives. Once installed at the Cheese, Skilley looks forward to a life of ease. But a resident mouse named Pip uncovers Skilley’s scandalous secret, and the desperate cat is forced to make a pact with him. The two become allies, and...

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Tired of dodging fishwives’ brooms and carriage wheels, alley cat Skilley yearns for the comfort of Ye olde Cheshire Cheese, a popular London inn. When he hears that the innkeeper is in need of a mouser, he hatches a scheme so audacious it will surely set him up for the rest of his nine lives. Once installed at the Cheese, Skilley looks forward to a life of ease. But a resident mouse named Pip uncovers Skilley’s scandalous secret, and the desperate cat is forced to make a pact with him. The two become allies, and harmony reigns until they are drawn into an intrigue involving a tyrannical cook, a strange visitor hidden in the attic, and an evil tomcat called Pinch. The ensuing mayhem threatens the peace of Ye olde Cheshire Cheese—and the entire British empire!

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 5–8—Skilley is a street cat with a secret—he likes cheese, but not mice. He seeks out the comfort of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub in Victorian London which is the daily hangout for Charles Dickens, who is having a terrible time coming up with an opening line for his new novel. Posing as a mouser, but really looking to avoid his nemesis, an alley cat named Pinch, and eat his fill of cheese, Skilley meets and becomes friends with Pip, a very smart and educated mouse who also has a secret—he doesn't like cheese. In addition to protecting the mice, Skilley and Pip must also find a way to get Maldwyn, a raven injured by Pinch who now resides hidden away in the pub, back to the Tower of London. When Pinch becomes a mouser at the Cheese, Skilley must stand up for Pip and the other mice. There are numerous Dickensian references and bits of his diary entries. Narrator Katherine Kellgren gives a rousing reading of this delightful novel (Peachtree, 2011) by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wight, providing wonderful characterizations and voicing the emotions of all the characters. From Skilley's almost Cockney accent to the "very British" Maldwyn, she generates excitement and adds to the already high quality of the book. Have the book available so listeners can peruse Barry Moser's marvelous illustrations.—Ann Brownson, Ballenger Teachers Center, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston
Elisabeth Egan
Whether you come to this book as an English major or as a cat lover, you will agree the first line of The Cheshire Cheese Cat is pure genius: "He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms." This joint effort from Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, illustrated charmingly by Barry Moser, might be best appreciated as a read-aloud. It is sure to spark dialogue about loyalty and bullying…
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
“He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms.” So opens Deedy (14 Cows for America) and Wright’s (The Silver Penny) 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 realized characters and effervescent storytelling make this story of unlikely friendship, royal ravens, and “the finest cheese in London” a delight. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
With engaging references to Dickens's phrasing ("He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms."), appealing animal illustrations and period black-and-white drawings of famous authors, and a delightful story of a partnership between a mouse and a cat, each with a secret, this book will capture the interest of the children for whom it is meant and the parent or teacher who reads it aloud. The hero Skilley is a typical Dickensian character burdened by his shameful secret, a poorhouse background, and an early abandonment. Clever as can be, he slips into Ye Old Cheshire Cheese to escape his enemy Pinch and inveigles himself into the good graces of the innkeeper and the heart of the barmaid Adele by madly catching mice. In hopes that he is ridding the inn of the dreaded vermin, he is allowed to stay and even cared for by the barmaid, but that ornery writer Dickens notices something is does the mouse Pip. Soon Skilley and Pip are embroiled in a mess with the injured Tower Raven who demands that they find a way to return him to the tower. There is confusion over what friendship means between two such different creatures and an all-out battle with the evil Pinch. The denouement features intrigue, sorrow, skullduggery, and lessons in friendship, heroism, and royal etiquette spiced up with the fruits of a writer's observations and the revelation of one more secret, the cook's! Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg
ALAN Review - Joy Frerichs
In the nineteenth cenury, Skilly, an alley cat, carries a secret. He loves to eat cheese, not mice. Skilly contrives to be allowed to live in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a tavern frequented by Dickens, Thackery, and other writers. Secrets abound in the story. Dickens quickly takes note of the growing friendship between Skilly and Pip, the mouse. When Skilly's nemesis, Pinch, a ferocious alley cat, moves into the inn, mayhem breaks out. Even Queen Victoria makes an appearance. The story is compelling, the wordplay charming, the vocabulary enriching, and the use of 19th-century English enlightening. This is a good book for English class. Barry Moser's illustrations seem to make the characters jump off the page. The reader now knows where Dickens received the ideas for his famous beginning to The Tale of Two Cities! Reviewer: Joy Frerichs
School Library Journal
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 colorful 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 humor. Combined with Moser's precise pencil sketches of personality-filled characters, the book is a success in every way. It should be a first purchase for libraries interested in bringing young readers to the marvels of Dickens via the back-or, should I say tavern-door.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, The Naples Players, FL
Kirkus Reviews

"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)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449010280
  • Publisher: Listening Library, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Library CD

Meet the Author

Carmen Agra Deedy is a New York Times best-selling author and has been writing and traveling around the world telling stories for more than twenty years. Her books have received numerous awards and honors. Carmen has performed in many prestigious venues, but children are her favorite audience. Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the United States as a refugee and like most immigrants sees the world from multiple perspectives. She lives in Georgia.

Randall Wright is the author of several novels for young readers, including A Hundred Days From Home, The Silver Penny, and Hunchback, a 2004 VOYA Top Shelf Award winner. He lives in Utah.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 19, 2011


    I so enjoyed this lovely book and plan to read it aloud to my 92 year old grandmother. She loves mice and Old England, so it will be perfect for her and the rest of my family. Highly recommended!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Cat and Mouse Tale

    Skilley the alley cat has made up his mind he is going to sneak inside the Cheshire Cheese Inn. So, he will cunningly convince the Innkeeper to let Skilley stay as the Inn's mouser. You see a mouser is a cat that catches mice. The Inn has the best cheese around and the Inn is overrun with mice.

    He finally sees the chance to sneak in after a customer. He puts on such a good performance and even caught a mouse. Well he convinced the Innkeeper that this was THE MOUSER for the Cheshire Cheese Inn. Skilley took off with the mouse further into the Inn and spit out the mouse. The mouse was called Pip and he has lived at the Inn his entire life. He could not figure out why the cat spit him out. Why didn't he eat Pip that is what any other cat would have done. Well you see Skilley has a secret and so does Pip. They agreed never to give away their secrets.

    They become buddies and together they are quite the little schemers. If they are careful and everything goes as they have planned they can live in peace with everyone, including the British Monarchy.

    The man at the beginning of the story that let Skilley into the Inn had a friend with him, Charles Dicken's.
    He found the Cat and Mouse antics to be very entertaining and with his imagination he came up with these fun and very unusual characters.

    Kudos to Charles, Carmen, Randall and Barry for putting their talents together into a neat little package for us to enjoy. The illustrator did a marvelous job of depicting all the characters through the author's detailed description to perfection.

    I highly recommend this book.

    I received a free copy of this book from Peachtree Publishing for review. I was in no way compensated for this review. It is my own opinion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This was a wonderful story and included suttle hints of Charles Dickens. It was a great story about friendship.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 5 Customer Reviews

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