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NELLY MAY HAS HER SAY by Cynthia DeFelice


by Cynthia DeFelice ; illustrated by Henry Cole

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: March 19th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-39899-6
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A playful remake of the English folktale “Master of All Masters.”

This is a lurking cumulative tale wherein the accumulation comes in a great, merry rush at the very end of the telling. The broad strokes are the same as Joseph Jacobs’: A young girl goes looking for work and lands a job with a single, well-to-do man. A requirement for the job is that the girl must use the unusual names he has given to everyday objects. In the original, he calls his bed a “barnacle,” and his pants are “squibs and crackers,” but DeFelice has given the gentleman’s inventions a supercharging. The bed is now a “restful slumberific,” his pants are “long-legged limberjohns,” and his hound a “fur-faced fluffenbarker” complete with a “wigger-wagger” (tail). This makes the ending a tumbling, heroic effort, rather than a spray of commonplace wordplay, but it is all in the service of an amusing mouthful of words. Cole’s artwork remains true to his warm and humorous sensibility, with Nelly May, the young girl, a gratifyingly emotive creature. The contemporary twist on the ending brings the story right up to the late 19th century.

Jocular and sparking with energy, an old tale gets a new turn. (Picture book. 4-8)