Staff Pick: Chester (ages 4-8)

book coverMy son is in the mischievous and stubborn stage, so it's no surprise that he has fallen in love with a fat, yellow cat who rules the pages of Chester with a touch of sass and a red Magic Marker.

Chester is self-centered and likes to take credit for work he didn't do. When it's as easy as marking out someone's name, why not?

Melanie Watt begins her book about an unassuming little mouse with: "Once upon a time there was a mouse. He lived in a house in the country." But then Chester starts marking up the page: "Then the Mouse packed his bags and went on a trip very, very far away and we never saw him again!"

He even draws a circle around Mouse, attaches him by dashes to an airplane, and sends him out of the country. "Hasta la vista, Mousie!" While Mouse is away, Chester takes over his home, labeling things with "MY curtains" and "Chester's chair" and drawing cat ancestors over Mouse's family photos.

When Mouse returns from his trip to Mexico, the story tries to soldier on but Chester keeps blocking the frame of the page with his yellow bulk. His jealousy is so all-consuming that he even tries to end the story in the middle of the book.

Finally Melanie gives up and Chester gets his own an embarrassing expense.

Books that make kids giggle are to be treasured, so hang on to them when you discover them. Your kid will get a kick out of following all of Chester's red vandalism on the pages and covers of the book. We've been reading this book for over a year and even now when my son sees red lettering he yells, "Mama! Chester done this!"

Melanie WattAbout the author: Melanie Watt was born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, where she attended French language school, but then had to hurry up and learn English when her father was transferred to Calgary. She moved around a lot when she was young, and drawing pictures on the hands of children allowed her to break the ice and make new friends wherever she went. She loved drawing Garfield and little animals in general.

In college she was going to major in business administration, until she found out numbers didn't hold her interest. So she took up graphic design. Her first book was Leon the Chameleon, published in 2001. She has since written 11 books, including Chester's Back and the popular Scaredy Squirrel, Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach, and Scaredy Squirrel at Night, published in 2009.