After hearing such wonderful things about Cynthia Rylant's Cinderella and spending quite a bit of time chasing down a copy, I was expecting wonderful things. I finally found an online version that a Disney Princess's Blogger had scanned and posted. As I quickly read the story and looked at the illustrations I didn't feel the excitement or the joy that I had expected. I am not sure if my expectations where too high or if not having a "real" copy of the book lessened the experienced, but I didn't love it. Sorry, it didn't speak to me.
The book follows the traditional story line of Cinderella. Her mother dies, father remarries, then dies and leaves Cinderella with an evil stepmother and sisters. She is treated poorly, yet her beauty and kindness shine through for all to see. The King decides the Prince needs to marry so the all important Ball becomes the talk of the town. The evil Step-Mother and greedy step-sisters leave for the Ball leaving Cinderella to cry in the garden. Cinderella's tears have a magic effect that night and a fairy godmother comes and works her magic so that Cinderella can attend the Ball. Of course Cinderella arrives at the ball, meets the Prince, dance and fall in love. Midnight comes, Cinderella races off leaving just one shoe, and the next day the Duke arrives looking for the Prince's true love. The shoe doesn't fit the greedy step-sisters and they shrug off the fact the Cinderella could possible be the "one". Cinderella makes herself known, the shoe is shattered, luckily she has the other one in her pocket. Cinderella and the Prince marry and they live happily ever after.
One difference that I noted in this version of Cinderella was that the search for Love was the focus that the story revolves around. The first page even states "This is a story about Love." Even after all the darkness in her life, each morning she gets up and "everyday Cinderella wished for Love". The story goes on to say that the Prince was also wishing for love. When Cinderella is left behind her heart breaks because it had told her that she was meant to go, Love was waiting for her there. When they finally meet at the ball the story states "In silence, Love found them." Cynthia Rylant uses the theme of love throughout the story. It is what helps Cinderella survive her hardships, it is what brings her to the Prince, and it is what saves her with a magical new life. Love is what saves the day!
I know that Cynthia Rylant is known for her use of language in her writing, however I found some of the phrasing complex with challenging vocabulary.Several times I had to go back and reread passages to make sure that I understood the meaning. For example in reference to Cinderella's step-sisters, "Like the roses, which did not bloom across their doorways, love itself did not ever linger." She uses it to enhance the feel of the story she uses words like banished, momentous, integrity, luminous, and covetous. Also with all the talk about love I don't feel that this book is meant for children. It feels like a children's book with an adult theme to me. Unlike several of the other versions of Cinderella, I can't see using it in my 2nd grade classroom. Maybe it would be a good mentor text for a creative writing class for older students.
Mary Blair's art work was my favorite part of this story. I did not grow up with Disney's Cinderella consistently playing on the VCR so the softer less focused images of this book seem more familiar to me. I loved how over sized the backgrounds are compared to people, it adds to the magical feel of the story. The colors are rich and beautiful and continue the feel of magic. I know that the pictures were the original production artwork from the 1950's version of the story, so it gives me the feel that I already have connections to the story. I would love to learn more about Mary Blair and see more of her art work.
In the first picture I think it is amazing how she uses light to draw the reader's eye to focus of the drawing. It adds importance to the imagine. Even though the fairy godmother is dress plainly, her glow tells you that she is magical and special. The moon light gives a sense of urgency to the riders leaving the castle to find Cinderella. In the bottom picture everything is dark grays and blacks except for the magic sparkles and Cinderella.