Cinderella–the classic heroine of folktales around the world and through time, from the “original” Egyptian Cinderella recorded in the first century BC to contemporary pop culture Cinderellas. And there are versions of Cinderella written for all ages, making it a perfect subject for family enjoyment through a summer Book Flight. The most well-known versions in the United States come from two famous re-tellings: Charles Perrault in 1697 and Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th Century. For your family read-aloud, we suggest starting with these versions to launch your flight. You can also take a trip around the world with different versions of Cinderella in these wonderfully illustrated picture books.
Read-Alouds for the Family: Two Classic Versions of Cinderella:
The Complete Fairly Tales of Charles Perrault by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Sally Holmes, Translated by Nicoletta Simborowski and Neil Phillips
Charles Perrualt’s version is the first to include several notable features we associate with the story: the pumpkin, the fairy god-mother, and the glass slippers. You should be able to find it at the library as it’s quite a well-known and popular resource. This beautifully illustrated book of fairy tales is also a wonderful addition to your bookshelf; the translation is good for reading aloud, and it’s a treat to hear the story as it was “pre-Disney.”
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (All New Third Edition) by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Translated by Jack Zipes.
In the Grimm Brothers German version, the tale is called “Aschenputtel.” Rather than a fairy godmother, Aschenputtel (translated “Cinderella”) receives her help from a wishing tree that grows on her mother’s grave. Warning: This version is also a bit more gruesome, with the wicked step-sisters having their eyes pecked out as punishment for their treachery. You know your own children best–we think this is appropriate for kids 8 and older.
Picture Books especially for the Younger Set ( But the whole family will enjoy)
Cinderella by Marcia Brown
Winner of the 1955 Caldecott Medal, this picture book of the Perrault version of the tale is the classic 1950’s retelling that will be most vivid in the memories of Baby Boomers–and therefore, their children. The pictures by master children book’s illustrator Marcia Brown are in a pastel palette and match the simply told story. Beautiful and classic.
Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Lowell, illustrated by Jane Manning
While the story is familiar, the setting is completely different in this Western version of Cinderella. The cowboy dialect is particularly fun, as we meet Cindy Ellen’s father’s ornery new wife and her mean new step-sisters. Cindy’s fairy godmother helps her find her courage at the local rodeo. Cindy Ellen is a durn good cowgirl, and readers will take a likin’ to her, once she follows her fairy godmother’s advice and “quits her tomfool blubbering” and gets her “rip-snortin’, gravel in the gizzard gumption.” Lots of fun!
Prince Cinders by Babbette Cole
While there are other Cinderella stories that do a gender switcheroo (such as Bubba the Cowboy Prince, which is on our list of cowboy & cowgirl books) this is probably the funniest of them, and the one that kids enjoy the most. Poor Prince Cinders is scrawny and relatively hairless, unlike his big, hairy and supposedly handsome older step-brothers. His drudgery is cleaning up after them while they carouse at the Palace Disco. Unfortunately, the fairy who shows up to help him isn’t at the top of her game, and his sports car is toy sized, his suit is a swim suit, and making him big and hairy turns him into an ape. In the course of it all turning out right, he meets a princess and loses his trousers and his step-brothers are turned into house fairies. Perhaps this is the one parents will enjoy the most too!
Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley
Cinder Edna lives next door to Cinderella. And while they share misfortunes, they don’t share attitudes. While Cinderella spends all her free time weeping at her misfortunes, Edna works even harder and earns some spare change. So doesn’t need a godmother- she has her own determination, and she puts a pretty dress on layaway. No glass slippers for her, but she doesn’t mind. Her penny loafers are more comfortable and practical. Edna meets the prince’s younger, more earnest and dorky brother, and they fall in love and live perhaps more happily ever after than Cinderella- they get to live in their environmentally sound cottage with their rescued kittens, eating tuna noodle casserole and having fun, while Cinderella lived in the castle, attending ceremonies and speeches, and listening to her handsome and boring husband drone on about troop formation.
Teens and Tween:
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Levine’s novel is now a classic, and was made into an actually enjoyable movie starring Anne Hathaway several years ago. When Ella was born she was given the “gift” of obedience by a wayward fairy. She must obey whenever someone gives her an order (intentionally or not). Hearing how Ella came to realize this was her affliction, and how she dealt with it (not by simply giving in at all, but by fighting it), and the quest she gave herself to have the curse lifted when her stepmother and stepsisters made the curse unbearable is wonderfully entertaining, and that’s just the set up. Then comes the handsome prince, the ogres, the elves, the fairies… the book stands on it’s own entirely, and there’s an extra level of enjoyment that comes from seeing how Levine will fit in all the traditional Cinderella elements.
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
What happened after Cinderella was whisked off to the palace by the handsome prince? This story picks up there, and finds Ella doesn’t like it one bit. The embroidery is boring. The rules are stultifying. The stories surrounding her are ridiculous. (A fairy godmother? Please! Ella got to the ball with her own hard work and daring.) And worst of all, the Prince seems only to love her looks. When she realizes that she doesn’t love him and won’t marry him, she is thrown in the dungeon until the wedding. Along the way she has managed to make a few friends, including Jed, her tutor’s son, but he is away working at a refugee camp and can’t help her. Once again, there is just Ella to rely on… When the story is condensed to these few sentences, it sounds like it may hit you over the head with platitudes like “loving people for their looks is silly” or “working in refugee camps is good,”but the book doesn’t read that way at all,- -it’s refreshing and involving and a very original re-telling.
Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey
Any re-telling needs a hook, a reason to re-examine the tale. In this version, the question becomes ‘How did Cinderella’s father, who we would imagine loved her, marry such a horrid woman with abysmal children, and if he lived, why did he let them treat her that way?’ The answer, in this version, is that he loved her mother so deeply that he blamed Cinderella (Cendrillon de Brabant, here) for the fact that the mother died at her birth, and has never seen her. He married a woman for political purposes, sending his new wife to his home at the edge of the country, miserable, distraught, and unknowing that she has a new step-daughter. When Cendrillon and her new step-mother and sisters work together, perhaps everyone can fulfill their destiny and find their own happily ever after.
Adults of All Ages
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah
As a child, Yen-Mah was called Wu Mei or “Fifth Younger Sister.” Her painful childhood really does read like a classic Cinderella story: when her mother dies, her father remarries and as the youngest of 5 children, she suffers the worst of her step-mother Niang’s abuse. This version of her autobiography is written for a young adult audience, but we think it is compelling for older adults as well. The inclusion of the history and politics during Yen Mah’s childhood during World War II in Shanghai makes intriguing reading. And the inclusion of the original Chinese legend of Cinderella helps provides an interesting version to compare to Yen Mah’s life story. Simply and beautifully written.
Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon
Yes, but what about the Fairy Godmother? Why did she appear? What happened to her after Cinderella went to the ball? Or perhaps Cinderella wasn’t the one at the ball… This re-imagining takes the perspective of the fairy assigned to help Cinderella. By falling in love with the prince herself, she has messed up the fairy decreed order of things and was banished from the fairy world. Forced to bind her wings and live as a human through the ages, Lil comes to believe that she may have a new chance to atone and rejoin her sister and the others. It becomes her mission to make sure a beautiful and quirky young woman meet and fall in love with Lil’s handsome boss at the bookstore where she works. A well written and interesting read all the way through, it has a twist of an ending that not only makes perfect sense, it takes the book to a whole other level of satisfying and thought-provoking.
The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer
This is nothing more or less than a lightweight, fun summer read by the author of the popular mystery series about Bubbles Yablonski. The novel follows the career of Nola Devlin, a plus-sized magazine editor who creates an alter ego for herself: an ultra thin, glamorous and spunky Brit named Belinda Apple. As “Belinda” becomes a smash hit, Nora struggles to keep her identities straight. ‘The Cinderella Pact’ itself refers to an agreement Nora and her best girlfriends make to lose weight by a certain date. If you’re in the mood for some chick lit that is funny and fast-paced, this book might just be your summer guilty pleasure.