Tag Archives: love

PPBF – Cinderella of the Nile

Many of us in the US are heading out for the start of the summer holidays this weekend. And what better thing to pack than a good book, especially if that book transports us to a land far away and to a time long, long ago…

cinderellacover350Title: Cinderella of the Nile

Written By: Beverley Naidoo

Illustrated By: Marjan Vafaeian

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 or older

Themes/Topics: fairy tale; #ReadYourWorld; #OneStoryManyVoices; kindness; love

Opening:

Long, long ago when pirates roamed the seas around Greece, a beautiful baby girl was born in a village to the north. She had eyes like sapphires and fine red curls. The happy parents, who had waited many years for this child, called her ‘Rhodopis’ because her cheeks were so rosy.

Brief Synopsis:

In this retelling of an early Greek version of the Cinderella story, a kind-hearted young girl is transported to a land far from home. There she toils as a slave, until a new owner treats her as a daughter and gifts her red slippers, and a wife-seeking pharaoh falls in love with her.

Links to Resources:

  • Rhodopis traveled from northern Greece, to an island, to Egypt along the Nile River. Trace her journey on a map of the eastern Mediterranean Sea;
  • Read one or more of the Cinderella stories listed below. How are they the same? What’s different?
  • In a forward, One Story, Many Voices, Naidoo writes that “tales change when they are told and retold” as that is the “freedom of the storyteller.” Write your own Cinderella story.

Why I Like this Book:

Like many other young and not-so-young readers, I love fairy tales. I especially love seeing how versions differ across regions and eras, even as the story themes remain the same.

In Cinderella of the Nile, I found several aspects of the storyline that differed from the popular version of my youth. For instance, this story lacks an evil stepmother and a fairy godmother. Instead, Rhodopis begins life with loving parents in a simple village in northern Greece where she herds goats. Then, pirates kidnap her and she enters a life where slave traders and owners determine her fate. Interestingly, she starts life in Europe and ends up as a slave in Africa – opposite to the slave route that most slaves endured, and opposite to the route that many refugees and migrants now travel. The inclusion of piracy, slavery and the reversal of this route will, I think, lead to thought-provoking discussions, especially with older children.

In lieu of a fairy godmother, Naidoo includes a well-known storyteller/philosopher, Aesop, who befriends Rhodopis and counsels her to “bend, not break” when faced with difficulties. That and her kindness to various creatures lead to her meeting, and union with, the princely pharaoh.

The themes of Cinderella, the power of kindness, adapting to one’s circumstances, and love, shine through in Cinderella of the Nile. I think children also will enjoy seeing how this tale features characters of varying skin tones and ethnicities, how a noted storyteller, Aesop, plays a role in the outcome, and how kindness to all creatures benefits Cinderella, even without the flick of a magic wand or the transformation of a pumpkin into a carriage.

Vafaeian’s colorfully rich illustrations not only complement but complete Naidoo’s retelling. With her “fine red curls,” Rhodopis is a focal point of every illustration, standing out even among the vibrant flora and fauna that fill every page.

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Interior spread, reprinted from Tiny Owl’s website

I also love that Cinderella and her pharaoh are an interracial couple, as shown in the last gorgeous spread.

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Interior spread, reprinted from Tiny Owl’s website

A Note about Craft:

Cinderella of the Nile is the first of Tiny Owl Publishing’s One Story, Many Voices series, which showcases the universality of fairy tale themes as evident in many similar stories told by “voices from around the world” that reflect the circumstances of particular times and places. How would you rewrite the Cinderella story, or some other favorite fairy tale, to reflect where and when you live or to better include people like yourself?

Learn more about Carnegie Award-winning author Beverley Naidoo at her website and in this article about Cinderella of the Nile.

Iranian illustrator Marjan Vafaeian also illustrated The Parrot and the Merchant and Bijan & Manije.

Cinderella of the Nile was named one of 10 picture books that promote empathy by book reviewer Mamma Filz. A reviewer in The Telegraph noted how this Cinderella overcame adversity “without a fairy godmother or a fancy frock.”

Read Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story and Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella to see how this story changes at differing times and places, even as its themes remain universal.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF: The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

What is the most wonderful thing in the world? You’ll have to read this Perfect Picture Book to find out! But I think anyone with a child will understand (and run out to purchase this book).

0763675016.medTitle: The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

Written By: Vivian French

 

Illustrated By: Angela Barrett

Publisher/date: Candlewick Press, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: fairy tale, love, love of family, wonder

Opening: “Once, in the time of your grandmother’s grandmother, there was a kingdom.”

Brief Synopsis: The king and queen search for a husband for their only daughter by running a contest: whoever can show them the most wonderful thing in the world will become her husband.

Links to Resources:

  • What do you think makes something wonderful? Think about/list/draw pictures of what you think is wonderful (note, the word is not beautiful; unique; biggest; or strongest – but are any of these features part of your wonderful something?)
  • This story begins in the time of your grandmother’s grandmother: how long ago was that? Explore time by building a paper-plate clock or a paper-chain calendar.

Why I Like this Book:
Both the words and the images in this book transported me to another place and time. Set in the Edwardian era in a place with Venetian overtones, the lyrical prose and lovely watercolour vignettes work together to tell a story of “love of family as the center of life” while including “a playful undercurrent of both whimsy and irony.” (Kirkus Reviews, 4 Aug 2015). And while written in the “then and there” classic fairy tale tradition, The Most Wonderful Thing in the World also incorporates some of the here and now in both words and subtle (and some not-so-subtle) images.

A Note about Craft:

Although The Most Wonderful Thing in the World reads like a newly-written fairy tale, in the endnotes Angela Barrett mentions that she had remembered a story of that name from her childhood and convinced Vivian French to retell it. Reading this makes me want to pore through old books to find a “new” old fairy tale to rewrite!

I also love how both author and illustrator weave allusions to today into the story. You’ll have to read the book to see what the illustrator hides in plain sight, but I can’t resist sharing my favourite lines of the book:

            The last of the suitors had sailed away to his kingdom, his weapons of mass destruction rejected.

            “How can anyone believe weapons are the most wonderful thing in the world?” asked the queen.

            The king shrugged. He was too tired to answer.

Finally, to bring this review full-circle, look again at the opening. I love thinking about “the time of your grandmother’s grandmother” as a way to show that this story happened long ago. I can’t wait to write about a past event and figure out a way to anchor it using an equally understandable measure of time that resonates like this.