Cinderella Liberator

Haymarket. May 2019. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781608465965.
Gr 2-4–Though she still has plenty of dirty chores to do, Cinderella is not confined to household drudgery in this feminist reworking of the old tale. She’s a good cook and bakes ginger cookies, and she’s out and about visiting farms and the marketplace, becoming friends with all the workers there. On the day of the Prince’s ball she’s a skillful hairdresser for Pearlita and Paloma, those obnoxious stepsisters. And she’s the most talented dancer when she herself arrives at the ball. Solnit tells the story in five numbered segments. She mostly follows the general scheme of Perrault, but this is not the romantic story of falling in love that he was telling. The fairy godmother, a little blue woman, shows up when Cinderella wishes that someone might help her. The familiar magic happens. Cinderella and Prince Nevermind (we don’t know how or why the character names were devised) will become friends as both are liberated from their confining lives. In the lengthy closing section they are too young to marry but she owns a very successful bake shop, and he becomes a farm worker. Solnit explains how Ella (no more cinders) is a liberator—”someone who helps others figure out how to be free.” Selected silhouettes from Rackham’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty work pretty well with the long narrative with its generous phrasing of conversations, descriptions, explanation of personality traits, and several philosophical lessons along the way. In a long afterword, the author discusses choices she made in selecting this story, reworking it, and choosing the Rackham illustrations. The liberator theme may be murky for many children. The feminization of some characters—the coachwoman, the footwomen, Cinderella’s real mother the sea captain—will strike some readers as rather forced. Nonetheless, this is a version of the oft-told tale that will surely find a place among the copious retellings.
VERDICT Give this variant to older fairy-tale fans. It could certainly be a fun discussion choice.

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