Searching for a Multi-Purpose Mentor Text
by Linda Walker
During the summer I co-teach a specialty course for young writers. I am always searching for texts I can use to show writing craft. Katie Wood Ray’s Wondrous Words gives two tenets about craft; story structure and ways with words. So I keep that forefront when I visit a book store or a library; discover an interesting book which will appeal to young readers showing an author’s craft structure and word use. But I also want a book urging readers to move beyond the story in search of answers to questions about the places, events and people within the pages of the book. Could the characters be based on real life people? Could I visit the places cited in the book online or in person? Did the events and daily living of the time period really happen? I want to show young writers how an author can weave snippets of fact into a satisfying fiction tale. In short I want to multi-purpose the book. I found this unique package in The Cheshire Cheese Cat :A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright.
So begins the tale of Skilley. HE WAS THE BEST OF TOMS. He was the worst of toms. Tired of London’s seedy back alleys and fighting off Pinch, an evil tomcat, Skilley prowls the streets for a safe place to call home. As luck would have it, the innkeeper of the renown Cheshire Cheese tavern is looking for an expert mouser to eradicate cheese stealing rodents overrunning his establishment. Now mice are not Skilley’s preferred delicacy but he’ll do anything to secure a place at The Cheshire. And so he forms an unheard of alliance with Pip, a resident mouse at the esteemed inn which attracts the famous writer and word lover, Charles Dickens (an onlooker and commentator throughout the story). There is much intrigue between Skilley and Pip as they try to hide private secrets and fears from one another and attempt to return Maldwyn, one of Queen Victoria’s prized ravens, to The Tower. Read more