Sunday, February 20, 2011

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella

Once upon a time, a Newberry Award-winning author, Paul Fleischman and a brilliant illustrator, Julie Paschkis decided to write about a well known folktale that has been told around the world for hundreds of years.  Many of us know her as Cinderella.  Yet others may know her has Asphet… Vasalia… Sootface… Catskin… or Cendrillon.  This story, Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal:  A Worldwide Cinderella is a remarkable piece of art that intertwines the culturally different tales into one unified tale.
Paschkis has a well thought out plan to weave the history of this tale from around the world.  The endpapers transition the exterior of the book to the interior.  On the cover there is a glass slipper and on the endpapers there is a map of the world.  The map shows the different countries that will be included in this tale. There is also a mermaid in the sea and a snake offering up the shoe.  The title page has a picture of the earth with many different shoes worn around the world with a vine that weaves them all together.  The story begins with a child sitting on her mother’s lap as she reads her this story.  The illustrations are framed around a white background.  Then, as you turn the page, you enter into another part of the world.  Paschkis is able to alert the reader to the different country by changing the background behind the framed text and illustrations.  Her gouache illustrations are color coded with folk-art and textile patterns throughout the book. For example, in Ireland there is a green background with off white Celtic like shapes.  In Zimbabwe, there is a brown background with orange lions and giraffes. Paschkis also labels each panel to inform the reader about where they are in the world.   
The tale begins with the all familiar young girl who was treated unfairly by her cruel stepmother.  She had step sisters that were hideous, and there was a handsome prince and a ball.  There is a theme of good vs. evil, rivalry and injustice, but in the end there is a happily ever after.  What Fleischman does is brilliant.  He incorporates a variety of Cinderella versions from around the world.  For example, when the girl didn’t have anything to wear to the ball.  “She looked in her mother’s sewing basket. (Laos)  Then she reached into the hole in the tree. (Russia) Then a crocodile swam up to the surface – and in its mouth was a sarong made of gold. (Indonesia) … a cloak sewn of kingfisher feathers… (China) a kimono red as sunset.” (China)  She made it to the ball.  All night she danced with the headman’s son, until the first rooster crowed.”(Indonesia)  In the end, “The magistrate looked into the girl’s eyes, took the straw sandal in his hand- and slipped it onto her foot with ease.”  (Korea)  The last full two page spread brings all the many people from the different countries together for the wedding.  They dance.  They share their food.  They share their culture. They share a classic folktale that people today are still telling.


  1. I did not initially see the mermaid with the shoe on the front pages because the book cover was hiding it. Thank you for pointing it out. You did a great job of describing the illustrations. I didn't recognize the gouache. You are right about Fleischman being brilliant. He transitioned the names of the characters depending upon the cultural tale. For example, the Fairy Godmother was also known as a crocodile and an Aunty. Also, the prince was referred to as the headman's son in Indonesia and the Great King in Zimbabwe. These are little cultural differences that make this tale unified, as you had mentioned.

  2. Loved the illustrations, too. What insight to switch page by page depending on the cultural. I'm so "awwwwed" by the idea's that the authors come up with. The illustrations and colors used throughout the story blew me away. Without even looking at the words you can become trapped by the pictures.