Watt, M. (2008). Chester’s Back! Toronto: Kids Can Press.
As the title so aptly states, Chester’s Back! This is a sequel to Watt’s successful Chester, published in 2007. In both these books the cat named Chester takes over as author, encouraging youngsters to consider taking on the role of co-creator of books. This series demonstrates that sometimes stories really do take on lives of their own.
This time around, the implied (and real) author, Melanie, gets tired of Chester’s many alterations to the story and decides to search for a replacement Chester to help her share the story. Chester continues to interrupt the creation process, until Melanie must give in to Chester’s finicky demands for the story, but not without causing some trouble of her own.
This is a wonderful example of a book in which the illustrations are essential for a student to make meaning from a text. And on top of that, they're very fun illustrations that will make kids itch to pick up a marker of their own.
Activities to do with the book:
Students can take Chester on as an example to co-create stories together or with already published books. (Of course, some teachers and parents may take offense to the idea of writing in books)
Also, since Chester spends some time pretending to be a cave cat, a teacher could use this book to help with the concept of time and history.
Plus, Chester begins the story over again several times. A teacher could emphasize this as a lesson that sometimes people have to keep trying, or that editing is an important part of the writing process.
Since the book also includes an open invitation for a replacement to Chester, a teacher could conduct auditions in a classroom—this could turn into a student talent show, or short letters to Melanie Watt explaining why students could take Chester’s place, etc.
Students could also choose old throw-away copies of books to recreate that text in their own way by adding or removing various pictures and words. If a teacher is nervous about the idea of kids altering the books, children’s magazines or school newsletters could also be used.
“A long time ago, in a faraway land, lived a cat named Chester.”
“Now, Chester, let’s try this again.
A long time ago, in a faraway land, lived a…”
“Chester, step away from the new Chester!”