cover image Nelly May Has Her Say

Nelly May Has Her Say

Cynthia DeFelice, illus. by Henry Cole. FSG/Ferguson, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-39899-6

Once upon a time, a “clever and quick” girl named Nelly leaves her impoverished, overpopulated family and goes to work for Lord Ignasius Pinkwinkle, a man at the far end of the eccentricity spectrum. Not only does he insist on being called “Most Excellent of All Masters,” he also has an entire nomenclature system for everyday objects. A bed is a “restful slumberific,” boots are “stompinwhackers,” and the dog (who is as perplexed as Nelly is by all of this) is a “fur-faced fluffenbarker.” When a fire threatens the estate, Nelly proves her linguistic adeptness and helps his Lordship understand just how silly he is. The source of this story is the English folktale “The Master of All Masters,” which is similar to Goldilocks in that the setup is more satisfying than the conclusion. Veterans DeFelice (Wild Life) and Cole (Unspoken) give the story polish, but much of the book is essentially a tour of a stately mansion. Still, the ending both resolves the original’s thudding conclusion and shows that employer and employee can have a relationship built on genuine affection and respect. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)