Written by Robert San Souci, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Stars: 4.5 (out of 5)
Summary: This story is similar to the tale that many of us know as “Cinderella,” the primary difference being that this is a Caribbean tale. The story begins with a bit more background, but continues on to tell of not-so-nice step sisters, a godmother who transforms Cendrillon into a beautiful woman so that she can attend the ball, and ultimately, a lost shoe and a handsome prince.
I absolutely loved this story. One of my favorite parts was the “forward” that the story began with. While it did not call itself a “forward,” it functioned similar to one. On the page before the story starts, there was a brief passage that says the following: “You may think you know this story I am going to tell you, but you have not heard it for true. I was there. So I will tell you the truth of it. Here. Now.” I found this to be a very powerful introduction to the story. Unfortunately, if a child was simply looking for the first page of the story, they might brush right by this important message. In my own classroom, I would use this story to aid in a unit or lesson on critical literacy. I hope to focus on reading not only for meaning, but to also help my students detect the subtleties such as who is crafting the message, why are they crafting it, who is the target audience, and how do all of these components play a role in how we process information that we read. This will make them much more critical processors of information. I would use this book in conjunction with such a lesson to explore how the same story can be told from different viewpoints, and even go one step further to consider why that may be. Using this version of the more common “Cinderella,” might help my students recognize that there are different versions to all stories and all writing. It would be interesting to explore the differences and similarities between Cinderella and Cendrillon and discuss how these might have arisen.
There are several other components of the book that I really enjoyed, including the illustrations. The illustrations appeared to be almost etched, with vibrant color and much detail. I also enjoyed some of the other plot components, such as where the godmother’s wand came from. When the godmother was a child, her mother died, and all she was left with was a mahogany wand that was magic. The magic could only be used to help someone she loves. I thought this was a subtle way to encourage helping those we love. There were also some French Creole words incorporated in the story, which added to its interest. The characters were different than those in the traditional story. First of all, the characters were all dark-skinned, wore Caribbean-style clothing and did different chores such as washing clothing. There was no fairy godmother in this story, just simply a godmother, which again makes it a story centered around family and those we love.
A younger group of students might really enjoy just listening to this story and looking at the pictures, while an older class could interpret some of the underlying messages and compare it to a traditional version of “Cinderella.