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Children's LiteratureAn entire world appears on the front cover of this delightful story of the friendship that develops between Nellie the cat and Ernst the crocodile (yes, the Ernst from Puddle Pail). If one looks carefully, the entire story is revealed in the cover art—my aging eyes just had to squint a bit to spot Ernst drawing his lion picture on a far away sidewalk. Nellie lives in a peach box, but longs for a warmer home and something to eat. A naughty crow decides to amuse himself at Nellie's expense. The crow convinces the sweet little cat that his rubber ball is a magic wishing star that has fallen from the sky. After giving the ball a huge bounce that sends it flying out of Nellie's reach, he tells her that all she has to do for three wishes to come true is to catch the ball, bounce it herself, and catch it again. Poor Nellie tries in vain to catch up with the ball as it bounces from her reach numerous times, until she can no longer see where it has gone. Then she sees Ernst creating a chalk drawing of a lion and realizes he is using the red ball for the nose. Nellie tells Ernst about the ball's magic and he makes some wishes, but nothing seems to happen. They both think that their wishes have not come true. Then, Nellie's disappointment and outrage at the crow's trickery causes her to leap up in a snarling, roaring bundle of orange fur that makes Ernst think of his lion coming to life. When Ernst invites Nellie to his home for lunch and his mother asks her to live with them, Nellie realizes that her wishes for a warm home, something to eat, and a friend have all come true. Old Mr. Crow reappears and is ready to taunt the little feline again. When he learns that both Ernst and Nelliefeel that all of their wishes have been granted, he hurries to try to find the magic star ball for himself. Nellie and Ernst had both wished to be friends and their wishes were certainly granted. If you are familiar with Kleven's art you will not be disappointed with this latest treasure, and if you are not, I suggest that you treat yourself to all of her other splendid, bouncy, breezy, perky (oh, I could go on), simply "fantabulously" illustrated books. 2006, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 3 to 8.