Everyone knows the basic story of Cinderella, the famous fairly tale that, according to some scholars, originated in China. With Cendrillon, author Robert San Souci puts a new spin on the old story, adding his own delightful Caribbean touches.
Originally published in 1998 and now available in paperback, the story is told by Cendrillon's godmother, or nannin', instead of some twinkling fourth-dimensional being who pops up during the night of the ball. The story boasts a canny, believable narrator who spends years as a servant to Cendrillon's rotten stepmother and sees and shares the girl's privations. Instead of a bright silver trifle with a shining star on the end, her magic wand is a simple mahogany stick inherited from her own mother. The traditional sparkly, ice-white gown is supplanted by a beautiful, sky-blue velvet gown, a "shoulder-scarf of pale rose" and a turban with a tremblant (gold ornament). The ridiculous glass slippers - how can our heroine safely dance in those things, anyway? - are replaced by slippers of pink velvet embroidered with roses. As a final touch the godmother conjures herself a red dress, goes to the ball too and pleases herself with helpings of chocolate sherbet.
Cendrillon's "Prince" is the son of a man who seems to be a wealthy plantation owner, San Souci's sly way of introducing the class and caste distinctions peculiar to the colonized islands. The author also lets it be known that one of the reasons Cendrillon's stepmother is so stuck up is "because her grandfather had come from France."
Pinkney's drawings are ravishing in their wealth of detail and their precise evocation of time and place. Palm trees and ginger plants line the road to the mansion, washerwomen balance baskets of laundry on their heads and of course, there's Cendrillon herself, a doe-eyed girl whose hard life has not marred her beauty, but given it a strength unseen in Disney's impossibly dainty and nerveless heroine.
Building on a traditional tale, San Souci - who employs Creole terms in the story and provides a glossary at the end of the book - has created a refreshingly original work. Cendrillon is full of wonders, a great, short picture book for both children and adults. Copyright 2002 BookPage Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 1999
This lively adaptation is based on a French Creole version of Perrault's familiar tale. Choosing Cendrillon's godmother (a lonely old washerwoman) as narrator provides a fine rationale for the intimate yet traditional storytelling tone that San Souci adopts here. Pinkney's signature multimedia art glows with the richly saturated colors of the Caribbean. This vital, assured ""Cinderella"" deserves a place in every library. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1998 #6
An exemplary author's note reveals that this lively adaptation is based on a French Creole version of Perrault's familiar tale, "expanded . . . considerably, drawing on details of life on the island of Martinique" as described by Lafcadio Hearn in the 1890s as well as by more recent sources. Choosing Cendrillon's godmother (a lonely old washerwoman) as narrator provides a fine rationale for the intimate yet traditional storytelling tone that San Souci adopts here (stepmother "Madame Prosp rine was a cold woman, and puffed-up proud because her grandfather had come from France"). The godmother witnesses the ball, since she goes along, as custom dictates, as Cendrillon's chaperone. A contemporary sensibility is also evident, though laudably unobtrusive: Cendrillon's menial labor, as well as her godmother's, is shown to have true dignity, which is especially significant since she is a black woman who is virtually enslaved; and she's drawn to the ball that's being given for Paul not because of his father's great wealth but because she knows Paul to be kind as well as handsome. Pinkney's signature multimedia art (scratchboard enhanced with paints and dyes) glows with the richly saturated colors of the Caribbean, his energetic lines and swirling draperies filling the illustrations with life while his characters' expres-sive eyes reveal their subtlest emotions. This vital, assured "Cinderella" deserves a place in every library. joanna rudge long Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 1998 July #2
San Souci's retelling of the Cinderella story in a Martinique mode has music to it that cannot be denied. Cendrillon's godmother, an island washerwoman, narrates; she is no fairy, but is in possession of a mahogany wand that may be deployed on someone she loves. She enables Cendrillon to make a grand entrance to the local ball (and plays chaperon) and catch the eye of the young gentleman who is as elegant as a prince. The infatuation is instant, dances are spun, the clock strikes twelve, a slipper is lost, Cendrillon is found, wedding bells chime. Much of the pleasure of this book is in the setting and the sense that this could happen anywhere, that magic transcends time and place. Pinkney's scratchboard illustrations give the comic proportions a tangibility that leaps off the page the laundry snaps, the coachmen jostle with the movement of the carriage, and the stepdaughter's toes, are, indeed, sausages. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8) Copyright 1998 Reviews
Library Talk Reviews 1999 May
This version of the familiar Cinderella tale, adapted from the French Creole, proves once again why the author and illustrator are an award-winning combination. Told from the godmother's point of view, a poor washerwoman from the island of Martinique, this tale just begs to be read aloud. Cendrillon (SOHN-dree-yhon), the French form of Cinderella, faces the traditional tribulations of life with a wicked stepmother while remaining sweet and innocent. She is rewarded when her nannin or godmother waves her mahogany wand and changes the fruit a `pain [breadfruit] into a carriage and well--you know the rest. The lyrical influence of the islands and the West Indies gives this familiar story art exotic flavor that is beautifully complemented by Pinkney's distinctive use of style and color in a rich treatment. The work includes a brief author's note commenting on the background of this version and a limited glossary of French Creole Words and Phrases with pronunciation guides. A great read-aloud and useful for comparisons of the Cinderella stories from other cultures. Folktale collections at any level would be enriched by this San Souci/Pinkney collaboration. Recommended. Terry Alegria, Media Specialist, Dallas, Texas Â© 1999 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 December #3
Of this retelling of the Cinderella tale, set on the Caribbean, PW said, "The lyrical cadences of the text spattered with French and Creole words combine with the sensuous paintings to bring the tropics to life." Ages 5-10. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 July #2
"You may think you know this story I am going to tell you, but you have not heard it for true," begins the washerwoman and unlikely godmother who narrates this spirited retelling. From the team behind The Faithful Friend comes an adaptation of a Creole tale that recasts familiar elements into the fashions and customs of the colonial West Indies. There is the haughty stepmother Prospérine, "puffed-up proud because her grandfather had come from France," the godmother who taps a breadfruit with a mahogany wand and transforms it into a carriage, and Cendrillon, who escapes at midnight with one pink slipper embroidered with roses. Pinkney's oil and scratchboard illustrations burst with vigorous movement as he captures the exotic palette and the lush textures of the "green-green island in the so-blue Mer des Antilles." The lyrical cadences of the text spattered with French and Creole words combine with the sensuous paintings to bring the tropics to life. However, the story's charm lies not in the well-matched Caribbean bride and groom or in the (rather predictable) happy ending, but in the authentic voice of the godmother. Her affection for the kind Cendrillon inspires her bold and selfless acts to ensure the happiness of another (and her quirky foibles prove equally appealing as she indulges in bowl after bowl of chocolate sherbet while proudly watching the couple's nuptials). Through this colorful and deeply human godmother, readers witness the enduring power of love. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews
School Library Journal Reviews 1998 September
K-Gr 3-A Caribbean Cinderella story, told from the godmother's point of view and brought to life by Pinkney's distinctive scratchboard illustrations. Based on West Indian versions of the story, the narrative is full of French Creole words and phrases. It tells of a poor washerwoman who is left a magic wand by her mother and discovers its power to help her beloved goddaughter. A fruit Ã pain (breadfruit) is transformed into the coach; six agoutis (a kind of rodent) become the horses; and Cinderella's slippers are bright pink with roses embroidered on them. Pinkney's art perfectly conveys the lush beauty and atmosphere of the island setting, featuring vibrant peaches, lavenders, aquas, and greens against the background of the sea. Frames of native greenery, shells, exotic blossoms, and small creatures are interwoven around most of the text, integrating it with the story's scenes to excellent effect. The result is an outstanding Cinderella variant for any collection.-Judith Constantinides, East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews
School Library Journal Reviews 1999 August
Set in Martinique, this version of Cinderella is told from the fairy godmother's point of view. Cendrillon becomes the stepchild of a selfish woman whose only daughter is spoiled and demanding. In the end, of course, Cendrillon finds true love. The story is interspersed with Creole words and phrases that are explained in a glossary. (K-Gr 4) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.