When I read the title Walt Disney’s Cinderella, I thought about the Magic Kingdom, the glitz and the glam and the all too familiar movie. I began to wonder why Cynthia Rylant felt the need to retell this age old classic. As I opened the book, I recognized some of the art work from the movie on the title page. Then, I read the first page and knew the answer to my question. Rylant worked her own “magic” through her lyrical storytelling and took this story to a deeper level. This is not the superficial Cinderella story; this is a story that will touch your heart.
She begins with, “This is a story about darkness and light, about sorrow and joy, about something lost and something found. This is a story about Love.” Readers young and old will be able to connect to this text, although we may all have different or limited experiences with all of these emotions. In the end, we all as humans want to be loved.
Rylant keeps many of the story elements with the typical wicked stepmother, evil step sisters, and a prince looking for a wife, there is a ball that Cinderella is not able to attend, a fairy god mother etc. However, unlike the movie, these events are not what this story is all about. Rylant is able to continue to weave the message of love throughout the story. As Cinderella was outside weeping, “She knew something more. She knew, somehow, that she was meant to go to the king’s ball as well. Her heart told her. Her heart said that Love was waiting there.”
“Who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great wide world? How does a young man find his maiden? His heart leads him. He finds her in a room. He asks her to dance. And when he touches her, he knows.” This is the Love that they both had been longing for, that we all long for.
Mary Blair’s illustrations certainly take us back to the time and place with the Fleur de Lis on the end papers. The illustrations in this text are unique in that they were originally made for the movie. One page that stands out in my mind is when the prince and Cinderella are standing in front of the clock when it struck midnight. The colors are muted with some darkness to show the time of day. There is some light in the sky because the moon is behind the clock. I could appreciate the clock and the architecture to the right of the clock. I noticed the vertical and horizontal lines to suggest order and tranquility. I think that shows how they feel when they are together. Then as look at Cinderella she is leaning with her hand out and that shows me the tension she is experiencing because she must leave now. She knows she will turn back to the girl with rags and filth. The clock is large and center of the spread showing me how important time is at the moment. The prince and Cinderella are right in front of the clock and we are right there with them. This is making me feel more empathetic to the situation.
I must admit that I wasn’t thrilled to read yet another version of Cinderella. However, I realize how important it is to understand authors and illustrators. I am beginning to appreciate the incredible craft of writing that Rylant has mastered. I have a whole new perspective and appreciation for this fairy tale that has been around for many years. I wonder if she plans on retelling any other fairy tales.