Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

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Nellie Belle

"Is it fun in the yard,/ Nellie Belle, Nellie Belle?/ Is it fun in the yard,/ Nellie Belle?" Australian author Mem Fox (Time for Bed; Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes) brings her preschooler-pitch-perfect rhythm and repetition to Nellie Belle, a cheerful picture book so melodic it could easily be sung.

Nellie Belle is a reddish-brown pooch with a pink collar who pants and prances her way through an eventful day in a seaside town. She digs a hole, moves through the town greeting everyone she meets (begging at the bakery, howling with street musicians, accepting a pat on the head), goes to the beach to chase seagulls (who chase her back), and even jumps in the sea. "Is it fun at the beach, Nellie Belle, Nellie Belle? / Is it fun at the beach, Nellie Belle?" She goes to the park... but what's this? Possums hiding out in the park's dark shrubbery? Nellie Belle looks scared--it is decidedly not fun in the park. She races back home, retracing her steps because "It's best on the bed, Nellie Belle."

Mike Austin's (Junkyard; Monsters Love Colors) colorful, friendly illustrations resemble textured tissue-paper collage, a bold, simple style that harmonizes splendidly with Fox's bold, simple story. Wonderful touches and comical details abound, such as the hole in the fence that reveals beach-bound surfers, the kinetic orbits around Nellie Belle's wagging tail, the beach ball that bounces into Lighthouse Park (into the paws of a possum), and the abandonment, then reclaiming of Nellie Belle's beloved teddy bear at the end. Home sweet home. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness