Ella McBella in the Dark


Children - Picture Book
38 Pages
Reviewed on 03/07/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Ella McBella in the Dark, written by Laura Pells and illustrated by Peter Trimarco, is a children's book that follows the titular character as she faces her biggest fear. Ella is a happy, active child who enjoys the outdoors. She rides her bike to the park after school where she plays and immerses herself in the surrounding nature. As it comes close to the time when Ella needs to return home, she begins to feel anxiety, knowing that the setting sun is a precursor to her having to go to bed. She immediately fears the shadows that start to form as she races home, distracted momentarily by a wonderful dinner. When the lights are out, Ella is confronted by the sights and sounds that give rise to her fear of the dark, which ultimately leads to her seeing what it all really is and creating a safe space for herself to make each new bedtime less scary.

There are so many reasons why I love Ella McBella in the Dark, even as an adult. Laura Pells taps into an intense fear I suffered from myself as a child, which was so great that before even reaching the first grade I wore a sleeping mask to avoid “seeing” whatever was or was not there. Like Ella, I had to take steps to overcome this on my own, which is where this book really stands out in the crowded field of children's literature. We know that Ella obviously does not live by herself, as her mom snuggles her while reading Ella a bedtime story. But after the lights are out, there are no parents who swoop in and assure Ella it's all fine. There's no soothing. There's just Ella, her teddy bears, and her fear. Ella endeavors to find other things to divert her attention. She turns on lights and finds comfort in an environment she crafts on her own. The lyrical, rhythmic narrative is fun and engaging, and Peter Trimarco brings it all to life with sublime, full-color hand-drawn artistry. All of these brilliant elements come together perfectly to turn Ella, her fear, and her small acts of courage into a fantastic read. Very highly recommended.

Susan Sewell

A little girl faces her fear of monsters lurking in the dark in the adorable children's picture book, Ella McBella in the Dark by Laura Pells. Little Ella McBella is brave; she isn't afraid of anything. Well, almost anything. During the day, Ella embraces challenges and is courageous. After spending the afternoon playing fearlessly at the park, Ella realizes that evening is approaching and becomes alarmed. Racing home before darkness settles, Ella tries to outrun the monsters she knows are lurking behind trees and around corners. Safe in the security of her home and mother's love, Ella is confident that she can handle anything again. Then, it's bedtime, and Ella is left alone in her room with scary green gloppy monsters preparing to eat her. Or are they? Can little Ella McBella discover a way to rid her room of monsters?

Ella McBella in the Dark by Laura Pells is a beautifully illustrated lyrical children's story about empowering oneself to find a solution to an age-old fear; the dark and what it might hold. I loved the cadence of the story and how it creates a fun, soothing rhythm. I appreciated how the book encourages children to use their imaginations to problem-solve and see things from a different, more positive perspective. While the story contains an important message, it also draws the reader in, captivating them with lovely poetry and enchanting illustrations. The illustrations, done by award-winning artist Peter Trimarco, are colorful, engaging, and will be sure to entertain children of all ages. As this is Ms. Pells debut children's book, I can hardly wait to read more from her.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Ella loves to play outside on a bright sunny day. She’s not afraid to ride her bike all by herself to the nearby park; nor is she afraid to hang from the monkey bars or swing the swing high. But when the dark comes and night encroaches? That’s a whole different story. Snuggled in bed with the lights out, she sees shadows of creatures skittering along her wall and strange noises coming from outside her window. She is consumed with fear and she can’t sleep as the shadows on her wall get bigger and creep closer and the outdoor noises get louder. That’s it. Brave Ella finally decides to face her fears head-on. She gathers her stuffed animals and starts to sing; she collects her books and looks at the pictures; and, of course, she turns on the light to shoo away those scary shadows. And, brave Ella even looks out her window to see what all the noises are about.

Laura Pells's picture book story, Ella McBella in the Dark, is a charming story about a little girl and the monsters that go bump in the night, keeping her awake, too frightened to sleep. It is certainly not an uncommon situation, as shadows in a darkened room and noises from outside can easily give someone the impression that all is not well and safe in the world. The author weaves the plot around the issue of fear and creates a brave, strong little girl who uses her imagination and comes up with a solution to face her fears head-on. There are ways to shoo away fear, and this story is one way to encourage young readers to face their fears, to find ways to overcome them, or at least to live with these fears. Beautifully told with care and compassion and lovely, colorful illustrations. I particularly love the use of music to calm Ella’s fears.