When I mentioned to our librarian my post Who needs another Cinderella Book, she asked what I thought of Cinderella as a boy version. I didn’t think anything because we have not come across it yet. Apparently, we were not through with Cinderella. Upon further investigation, we discovered a whole new treasure trove of Cinderella books: Cinderella as a skeleton, Cinderella as a hen, and Cinderella as a fashionista. We selected ten for your consideration.
As you read Cinderella stories with your kids, ask:
How does a boy Cinderella character different from a girl character?
What do you like about fairy tales? What don’t you like?
Who are the good characters? What makes them good?
Use our Venn Diagram to chart out the differences and similarities of the Cinderella stories. Kids might also enjoy acting out their favorite version of Cinderella. You might end up being a wicked-stepmother, but it’s all in day’s work.
The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Loretta Krupinski
This Irish version of the original Cinderella reminds me of the old traditional European fairy tales I read as a child. In these stories, there were heroic young men up against superior rivals, pretty maidens in distress, and always magical gifts that saved the day.
Here the Irish lad by the name of Becan has a misfortune to be born with big feet and even bigger misfortune of losing his mom at thirteen. His dad, a traveling peddler, who sells needles and pins, brings home a new wife with three grownup daughters. The stepfamily finds the boy occupation that keeps him out of their sight from sunup to sundown herding father’s cows in the hills. While on cow duty he meets a scary and angry looking bull and offers him friendship, “We could be cousins, you and I, for we look to be patched together from the same odds and ends.” This magical bull takes a position of Becan’s unlikely godmother, who not only fills young lad’s tummy with food but gifts him with magical tail (yep, t-a-i-l) that saves his life more than once.
All the essential elements of Cinderella are here – the evil stepmother, the wicked sisters, the harsh treatment, the magical helper and the lost boot – only if it wasn’t for the title I wouldn’t have connected the story to Cinderella. This story is far more interesting and satisfying. My kids agree. We have read this story many times and each time my kids sit through this long story as though mesmerized, listening to every word with rapt attention.
What I love about this story is that the boy’s problems are not miraculously solved by magic like in traditional Cinderella, but he is required to find his own way in the world. He finds himself a job with the gentleman, he makes a decision to save the princess from a wicked dragon, and he raises the sword to fight for justice. He had a little help from magic along the way, but it wouldn’t be a fairytale without it. I love that Becan wins the princess’s heart by bravery and courage and not by dancing at the ball. I love the addition of giant and dragon (because who doesn’t like dragons). Not only they offer a beautiful imagery, but an additional level of danger and excitement. The lost boot fits perfectly into the storyline.
The illustrations complement the narration nicely and capture attention. I don’t know what medium illustrator used in his work, but I’m really impressed by the textured appearance. At a first glance, I was surprised to see the princess’s peaceful face expression when facing the death in the dragon’s jaws. She seems to have much more emotion in her face when pulling Becan’s boot of his foot two pages later. On a further consideration, I decided who wants an illustration of a frantic, scared to death princess? We are better off with an image of a brave and composed Princess, calm and collected even in the face of danger and imminent death. This story made me realize how much I enjoy European fairy tales and that I should read more of them to my kids.
Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by David Catrow
There are many Cinderella stories, including one in which Cinderella is dead. Don’t worry, it’s not too gruesome (and even appropriate for Halloween). In this story, Cinderella is a skeleton. She lives in a “third mausoleum on the right, decayed, decrepit – what a fright.” As always poor Cinderella has no respite from her evil step-family. They work her from dusk till morn. “She hung up cobwebs everyplace, Arranged dead flowers in a vase, Littered the floor with dust and leaves, Fed the bats beneath the eaves.” As you probably noticed the story has a lovely poetic rhyme and creative vocabulary.
I love the creepy touches like the step-sisters leaving for the ball in mildew green sateen and in a hearse. And that when Prince Charnel matches Cinderella foot bone to her leg (no need for a glass slipper in a skeleton story) he declares that she makes each day a Halloween. I think this perfectly ghoulish and imaginative take on Cinderella, shocked my kids, but in a good way. My oldest son commented, “when you said you are bringing a new Cinderella book home, I didn’t imagine it can be like this!”
On the first read, I thought the illustrations were too creepy for children’s book. Roaches crawling down dead prince’s hand, broken bones and empty eye sockets are too much for my impressionable nature any time, but in a children’s book, it seemed over the top. But after reading the book a dozen more times, I started to notice the details and changed my mind. I started to see all the beautiful colors (rosy purple graveyard on the first page) and the humorous details (the rat who fainted after the coach evaporated). And even though it might seem like a morbidly odd story with a dubious twist, it actually proved to be very satisfactory for little kids who are still griping with the big ideas of death and dying and find delight in the fact that the happy-ever-after is possible even after you are dead.
The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon
This is my favorite version of Cinderella. It comes from Algonquin Indians and has a certain haunting quality that gives me goosebumps. Long after I finish reading the story I keep pondering different interpretations of the ending. It starts with the description of an Indian village by the shores of Lake Ontario. “Off from the other wigwams of this village stood one great hug wigwam. Painted on its sides were pictures of the sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, and animals.” This wigwam was said to be a home of an Invisible Being. Cue in dramatic music. In the same village lived a poor man with three daughters: two mean ones and the youngest one with a rough face burned by the fire and the hair charred and ragged.
What I love best about this story is that there is no fairy godmother. When it is time to change her life, the Rough-face girl strips birch bark from the dead trees to make her outfit and with a piece of bone, she carves pictures of the sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, and animals. Her necklace is made of broken shells and her moccasins are too big for her feet and they “flap, flap, flapped like ducks’ feet as she walked.” Ridiculous to many eyes perhaps, but this girl, she has the courage and her heart is open to the great beauty of the earth and skies around her. And she understands the deeper meaning of things and when the ultimate test comes her answers come from the heart.
I love the beautiful imagery: the milky way of stars that spread across the sky, the dark woods, the night skies, the giant rainbows. The illustrations are magnificent: dark, rich, and vivid. I would love to rip some pages of the book and hang them on my walls framed. My favorite page is the one where the girl is walking through the woods. The rocky mountains, evergreen trees, birch tree, waterfall, an eagle soaring through the sky, rainbow, all combine to create a powerful sense of the grandeur of the universe and among all that majesty walks a little girl in big moccasins. My other favorite painting is the last page where a beautiful canoe is rowed into a yellow mist. I hope to find some time in the nearest future to reproduce these paintings on canvas with acrylic paints. It would be my treat to myself.
Cinderella by Christine San Jose, illustrated by Debrah Santini
This version of Cinderella takes place in Manhattan. The background of the images offers rich historical details: horse-drawn carriages, stone buildings, the first cars, high society dressed to the nines… You will find a lot of intriguing information to talk about with your kids if you study together turn of the century room decor, hair swept to the top of the head, blouses, and dresses. The story follows the traditional line of an orphaned girl, who was kind and hardworking, but mistreated until she goes to the ball incognito and sweeps the prince off his feet. Rich vocabulary, uncharacteristic of the typical Cinderella version, make this story worth your time. “Splendiferously,” “pranced,” “paraded,” “snatched,” “equerries,” “wretched,” “milliners” might invite you to pull out Children’s dictionary. Another notable thing about this edition of Cinderella is the beautiful colored pencils and paints illustrations. It looks like the works of the old masters: fluid, emotional, understated…
The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story by Judy Sierra
This version of Cinderella comes from the Spice Islands in Indonesia. The mother dies, a step-mother is mean and the chores are never-ending. The fairy godmother is represented by a Grandmother Crocodile, who comes to the rescue when the poor girl named Damura implores, “Creatures of the wild, help me.” Grandmother Crocodile puts the girl through the test and once she is confident the girl has a good heart, she rewards her and helps to get to the dance at the palace. In this version, Damura doesn’t have to head home at midnight but gets to dance till roosters crow. Damura sweeps the prince off his feet by using elaborate dance steps that her mother had taught her. After the prince finds Damura by her tiny shoe and marries her, the deceitful stepfamily take her for a boat ride and push her in the river where she is eaten by a crocodile. Yep, this Cinderella has been eaten by a crocodile. But this is not over yet. Read on for further developments. The acrylic paints capture the exotic flavor of the Spice Islands: the motifs, the architecture and the lush vegetation.
Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella by Jan Brett
If Cinderella can be a boy and a skeleton, why can’t be it be a chicken? To be honest, for me the biggest appeal of this book is that it was inspired by the author’s trip to Russia. Reading this book became a game of how-many-Russian-things-can-you-find-on-each-page? Beautifully carved wooden elements, elegant domes, round and oval windows, colorful tile work, sparkle, and gold. The plot is usual: Cinders – a chicken – works all day and when it’s time to go to the ball she is left behind. A beautiful Silkie hen appears and provides a splendid sarafan dress and crystal slippers. Off flies Cinders to her destiny in a lovely troika of harnessed ducks.
What I love the most are the intricate illustrations. Against lacy white snow and magical ice, you will see the most beautiful shades of red, green and blue. I love all the rich furs, precious stones, and all the embroidery. The book made me reach for my ribbons box to make a couple of new ribbon flowers for dolls.
Jan Brett is amazing and this book is what you would expect from her. My friend commented that this book would have worked much better with people as characters, but I don’t agree. With people it would have been just another Cinderella book, chickens add an element of uniqueness. At the end of the book, the author explains her inspiration for the chickens.
Cinderella: a fashionable tale by Steven Guarnaccia
This story starts with drawings of Manolo Blahnik sandals, patches of Burberry house check pattern from 1924, and Christian Dior leopard print. How ridiculous, was my first thought, to turn Cinderella into Carrie Bradshaw. This Cinderella lives with three step-sisters, pulls around electrical vacuum cleaner and when she needs help getting to the ball her magical godfather, dressed in tux and sunglasses (who looks exactly like Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel and Fendi), makes his appearance and uses his magic wand to create many different gowns from Kansai Yamamoto’s bodysuit designed for David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane Tour (1973) to Yves Saint Laurent “Tribute to Wesselmann” dress (1966). (I got these big words from the book itself). Cinderella picks Vivienne Westwood “Statue of Liberty” dress (1988) and heads to the ball in a pumpkin coach with a fat mouse for a coachman. The usual motifs: an evening of dancing, midnight strikes, Prada crystal slipper is lost, and it all ends with a wedding at the castle.
The bright illustrations are made with pen, ink, and watercolor. An interesting element that escaped my notice on the first read was the absence of settings. Every page has only people against a white background! If you are looking for an unconventional Cinderella story, you might enjoy flipping through the pages of this book. This pixie cut Cinderella looks empty-headed, but her rag dress of patched together designer patterns is definitely a fashion statement and if you have a little girl who likes to design her own outfits, she would be inspired.
Cinderella by Barbara Karlin, illustrated by James Marshall
What makes this close to the original story worth mentioning are the humorous and wacky illustrations by James Marshall. You have already heard me say before that James Marshall is one of my favorites. His cartoon-like, large and bright water-color and ink illustrations are not just creative, but comical. You will see what I mean just by looking at the front cover where Cinderella is plopped on her plump rump wiping her brow with her tongue stuck out in seeming exhaustion. Our other favorites are the scene where godmother surprises the cat and one of the sisters biting her hands when the prince cried, “I have found my princess!” A little comical variation at the end of the story is the fact that Cinderella’s fairy godmother moved in with the newlywed couple “just to make sure everyone lived happily ever after.”
Cinderella by T
Cinderella: Le Petits Fairytales by Trixie Belle
If you can’t wait to introduce Cinderella to your baby, this book is for you. It would also work great if you have a beginner reader who would be happy to read this story for a younger sibling. Each page or spread has one-two words in large print “GIRL,” “CHORES,” “MEAN STEPSISTERS,” “MAGIC WAND.” Bright illustrations are not cluttered with minimum details and simple background. There are many other books in Les Petits Fairytales series.
Ella Bella Ballerina and Cinderella by James Mayhew
On the way to the ballet class, Ella Bella loses one of her ballet shoes. Her teacher Madame Rosa lets her borrow a pair from her shoe trunk. The incident reminds Madame Rosa about Cinderella and she turns on the beautiful tune from Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella. At the end of the class, Ella Bella is left alone on stage. She opens the lid of Madame Rosa’s magic music box and suddenly is whisked inside the Cinderella story. Ella Bella goes to the ball with Cinderella and reminds her to leave the ball at midnight. After Cinderella runs off, she helps the prince to find Cinderella’s house. Cinderella finds her happy ending and Ella Bella gets a lesson in shoes. I asked my daughter if she would like to magically jump inside the Cinderella story like Ella Bella and she replied, “Definitely not!” But she wants to keep reading the book over and over. If you have time find a few famous scenes from Cinderella ballet on youtube and watch it together.
Which Cinderella version is your favorite?