When our daughters were young, they loved to dress up as princesses and “marry” princes. Tomorrow, our daughter will marry her “prince”, who hails from South America and speaks Portuguese and Spanish. I couldn’t resist reviewing a book set south of the US border, sprinkled with Spanish phrases and with the happy ending we all know and love!
Title: Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story
Written & Illustrated By: Tomie dePaola
Publisher/date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers)/2002
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes/Topics: fairy tale retelling; Mexico; folklore
Hace mucho tiempo – a long time ago- in a village in Mexico, there lived a merchant named Francisco and his beautiful young wife, Adela.
Brief Synopsis: This retelling of the Cinderella tale features a young Mexican orphan living with a stepmother and two stepsisters, a young rancher seeking love, a doting nurse, and a fiesta.
Links to Resources:
- Host a fiesta with Mexican-inspired foods and crafts;
- Discover more about the lovely traditional clothing and Rebozos (shawls) that play a role in this retelling;
- Try your hand at creating some Mexican folk art of your own;
- Compare this Cinderella retelling with the “Disney” version so many of us know: what’s the same? What’s different? Why do you think dePaola kept what he did and changed other aspects of the story?
Why I Like this Book:
Adelita is a classic dePaola offering: lovely, detailed illustrations framed by vibrant Mexican tilework and a story with just enough elements from a familiar fairytale combined with new details to satisfy any fairytale lover. I especially appreciate the inclusion of Spanish phrases throughout the text, especially as a dictionary with pronunciation guide is provided.
Although Adelita is an older book and the text is longer than many picture books published in today’s market, I think the story stands the test of time and kids today will enjoy meeting this Mexican Cinderella.
A Note about Craft:
How has dePaola made the classic Cinderella story his own, and what can writers learn from what he kept or changed?
- The folkart Rebozo that Adelita wore to the Fiesta is at the heart of the story and replaces the glass slippers. dePaola picked an item that is found in Mexico and honors its artistic traditions. Additionally, we learn that the Reboza belonged to Adelita’s mother – another break with the “original” Cinderella story where the shoes appear magically;
- The prince becomes a rancher in dePaola’s tale, a person with stature in the community, but one that is more believably from the region;
- The magical elements of other versions are absent from Abelita. Instead, the kindness of a loving older woman enables Abelita to attend the Fiesta; and
- Rather than being named Cinderella, Abelita references the fairytale when she is at the Fiesta, and bids her “prince” to “Just call me Cenicienta – Cinderella.”
dePaola published insights about his Mexican Cinderella story on his website .
Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books https://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/list provides reviews of picture books by topic. While Susanna is taking a break for the summer, you can still check out the other great picture books featured there!