Sunday, February 16, 2014

Glass Slipper Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman (Illustrated by Julie Paschkis)

Published in 2007
Traditional Literature 

Paul Fleischman's Glass Slipper Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella is definitely a book for readers who are familiar with the classic fairy tale. His book combines text from 17 different versions of the story from around the world. When you open the book, the first thing you see on the front and back endpapers is a picture of a world map. The 17 countries or areas that are featured in the book are identified on the maps. The symbols placed in the oceans, other bodies of water, and around the borders are an indication that this tale is told from a world-wide perspective. The author's note at the beginning of the story provides a  brief history of Cinderella explains Fleischman's vision for his book:

"A chameleon changes its color to match its surroundings. Stories do the same. The earliest recorded Cinderella tale is thought to date from ninth-century China. Traveling across the globe, it changed its clothes but not its essence. Rivalry, injustice, and the dream of wrongs righted are universal, no matter our garments. When the story reached France, it acquired the glass slippers and coachmen-mice familiar to Western readers. More than a thousand other versions are known. I pictured a book that would let us listen in on the tale-tellers we don't often hear, who've breathed this story to life around fires of peat and pinion pine, swinging in hammocks and snuggling under deerskins."

The illustrations in this book are what make it truly unique. The story begins with a picture of a mother and a child sitting on a couch reading Fleishman's book Glass Slipper Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella. Next to the mother and child, a globe is sitting on a small table, which is clearly an indication that Fleischman's version of the tale will have worldwide appeal. The framed picture is brightly colored and is set on a solid, white page. Then the story begins, "ONCE UPON A TIME there lived a wealthy merchant whose wife had died. They had one daughter, gentle-eyed and good-hearted."

As the story unfolds, it makes a transition to brightly colored pages with symbols that represent the countries from which the text is taken: Mexico, Korea, Iraq, Russia, and so on. The colors change every time a new country is introduced, and the name of the country is listed on the page or panel. With the turn of each page, the reader comes to understand how the story changed over time as it traveled across the globe.

I couldn't help laughing when I got to the part of the story from Laos when the stepmother is trying to keep Cinderella from the prince as he tries to find the beautiful woman he met and fell in love with at the ball: ". . . until he came to the stepmother's house. When she saw him approach, she grabbed her stepdaughter, wrapped her in a mat, and hid her." In the illustration, Cinderella's stepmother is seen wrapping her in the mat; all the reader sees is Cinderella's hair and feet protruding from the sides. Her stepmother has a smirk on her face as if she is thinking, "I got her now! I will keep her from the prince!" But of course, we all know how the story ends. This is a classic example of dramatic irony.

Another humorous variant on this classic tale comes from Indonesia and Ireland. The clock strikes midnight; I mean the "first rooster crow[s]" (from Indonesia), and she remembers her promise. Then in the illustration from Ireland, Cinderella is seen riding on a horse as she flees from the prince who is running behind her. Her foot is bare, and the prince is holding a glass slipper in his hand in fast pursuit. The text reads: "She leaped onto her mare's golden saddle. 'Who are you?' called the prince. The girl had no time for words and charged down the lane. The prince sprinted beside her, got a hand on her shoe-and the dainty thing pulled off in his fingers as she galloped away." The cultural twists and turns in this tale make it truly delightful.

I enjoyed reading this version of Cinderella and highly recommend it; however, it is definitely for readers who are familiar with the tale and have a thorough background knowledge of how the story unfolds. The folk art illustrations from the different countries are absolutely stunning, but the text doesn't flow as smoothly as the more classic versions.

Other versions of Cinderella from around the world:

More About Paul Fleishman (Author)
More About Julie Paschkis (Illustrator)
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