Thursday, February 13, 2014

Walt Disney's Cinderella Retold by Cynthia Rylant (Pictures by Mary Blair)

Published in 2007
Traditional Literature

Walt Disney's Cinderella retold by Cynthia Rylant is a modern day version of the classic story Cinderella. The unframed illustrations throughout the book are actually pictures by Mary Blair, one of Walt Disney's "most brilliant conceptual designers." Mary Blair, who was born in 1911 and died in 1978, "helped define the look of such classics as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan during her thirty-four years as an artist with the company. In addition to her work on animated films, Blair brought her unique style to children's books, advertisements, theatrical set designs, and theme park attractions. She remains one of the most respected artists in the history of animation" (back book cover jacket). The illustrations are really what make this picturebook special. They are pictures readers would be very familiar with if they have seen any of Walt Disney's cartoon classics.

Rylant's retelling of the story is basically the same as the classic version of Cinderella, except in a few instances. The opening lines reveal her primary focus: "THIS IS A STORY about darkness and light, about sorrow and joy, about something lost and something found. This is a story about Love." In this version, Cinderella wishes for only one thing: Love, and Rylant makes this clear at the very beginning. 

The wicked stepmother and stepsisters still despise Cinderella and try to prevent her from going to the ball, but her fairy godmother, once again, comes to the rescue and turns a pumpkin into a coach, four mice into horses, and a "child of rags [becomes] a vision." As Cinderella rushes off to the ball with a promise of returning at midnight, one question stands alone on a golden page: "Who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great wide world?"

Cinderella does, in fact, make it to the ball. She and the young prince fall in love and dance the night away until the clock strikes midnight. Then Cinderella remembers her promise, takes one last glance at her prince, and runs away losing one of her glass slippers on the palace steps. A massive search begins in the kingdom for the beautiful woman who captured the prince's heart. The duke is sent out "on an order from the palace" and goes from house to house searching for the lovely maiden. When the duke arrives at Cinderella's home, her stepmother will not allow Cinderella to speak to the duke or try on the slipper. However, in this modern day version of the tale, Cinderella takes matters into her own hands.

As the duke turns to leave, Cinderella appears at the top of the stairs and softly but boldly asks, "May I try on the slipper?" Unlike other versions, this duke is clumsy and drops the glass slipper to the floor, and it shatters into a thousand pieces. Cinderella calmly explains to the duke that all is well. She has the other slipper, and as the duke slips her foot into it, the shoe fits! Cinderella returns to the palace "where Love had always been waiting," the prince takes her in his arms, and they live happily ever after.

I like this version, because unlike earlier versions, Cinderella is beautiful, soft-spoken, and humble, but when it really matters, she is strong. She doesn't allow her wicked stepmother to control her life any longer and takes matters into her own hands. She takes charge, and her life changes dramatically. She has finally won the Love she has always longed for.

Mary Blair
Cynthia Rylant
Children and adults alike will never tire of the story of Cinderella. Even though there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of versions of this story told around the world, the story will always speak to the heart: The one thing we all long for is Love.



Cynthia Rylant's Official Website
Mary Blair Gallery
Image Source

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