cover image Nellie: A Cat on Her Own

Nellie: A Cat on Her Own

Natalie Babbitt. Farrar Straus Giroux, $14 (31pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35506-7

Nellie, a cat marionette made ``from wood and yarn and broom straws'' by an old woman, loves dancing every afternoon to the tune of the music box, but never considers Big Tom's suggestion that she dance alone. When the old woman dies, Nellie's ``safe little life'' ends. Big Tom, a real cat, tells Nellie to find another old woman, or to `` `Belong to yourself, then, like me.' '' Big Tom frees Nellie from her strings, sitting her in the old woman's hat; the pair set off into the ``wide, wild world,'' with Big Tom pulling Nellie along in the hat by its ribbons, like a cart and pony. That night, as the moon shines full in the sky and all the cats meet to dance together, Nellie feels ``a stirring in her wooden limbs . . . and she leapt and dipped and spun, like a dancer on the stage, and the cats all danced around her.'' At moonset, Nellie decides to stay in the woods and dance by herself rather than live with another old woman. This gentle fable, with its message of freedom, is lovingly brought to life in Babbitt's charming, magical full-page color illustrations, one for each page of text--with a two-page spread of the moonlit cat dance. Ages 3-up. (Oct.)