Young Adult-Picture Book Pairings: Cinderella Stories
The two types of books I check out most from the library are young adult books and picture books. In my case, this is because I’m a thirty-something librarian who likes to read YA books, while I have three kids who like like to read picture books. It occurred to me that I might not be the only reader who’s currently interested in both YA and picture book audiences: lots of teens have younger siblings, many librarians at small libraries serve patrons who run the gamut of ages, and some people just like to read both picture books and YA books! I’ve also noticed that some themes and stories appear frequently in both types of literature, so I’ll be doing an occasional series on picture books and YA books that go together.
The first theme for this series basically chose itself… I love fairy tale retellings, and my middle child has been obsessed with Cinderella for the last year and a half, and going strong! There are tons of Cinderella retellings out there, so I tried to select a few of our family favorites for the picture book selections, and some YA options that have garnered attention in recent years.
Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story, retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. A version that doesn’t rely on magic, the story of Adelita shows how a sweet disposition, a childhood friendship, and the help of a beloved family servant win Adelita her happily-ever-after.
Cinderella, retold by Max Eilenberg, illustrated by Niamh Sharkey. There are many retellings of the “classic” French version, first attributed to Charles Perrault, and this is one such retelling. Eilenberg takes some liberty with the story though, by giving the narration more of an oral storytelling feel, adding a third ball (Perrault’s version has two), and letting Cinderella’s father redeem himself in the end (in Perrault’s version, he is the quintessential hen-pecked husband who does not stand up for his daughter.
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, retold by Ai-Ling Louie, illustrated by Ed Young. In this version, lovely Yeh-Shen seeks help not from a fairy godmother but from a magic fish, who manages to help her even beyond death. Caldecott award-winning artist Ed Young cleverly incorporates the fish in the background of many of the illustrations, and my kids have fun finding him.
Cinderella’s Rat, written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh. Those who love Meddaugh’s Martha the Talking Dog stories will not be disappointed by this funny take on Cinderella, told by the rat who becomes her coachman, er, coachboy. The poor rat has trouble trying to care for his sister, who was not transformed, while hiding his true identity, but all’s well that ends well… even if it’s not the happy ending one might expect.
Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella, retold by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. This French-Caribbean version, told by Cinderella’s godmother (who is not a fairy, but does have some magic) is both beautiful and gives an interesting commentary on how magic can only take you so far.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, retold and illustrated by John Steptoe. A Caldecott Honor book from 1988, this well-loved tale compares two beautiful sisters: haughty Manyara and humble, kind Nyasha. Both daughters have the chance to travel to the royal city and meet the king when he searches for a bride, but their different behaviors on the journey clearly differentiate who should become queen.
Young Adult Books
Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey. Baby Constanze is born too early, causing her mother’s untimely death. The red hair and green eyes imparted by her mother only make her father, Etienne de Brabant, rue her existence the more, and he all but abandons her to the care of her godmother. He also leaves an unidentified baby boy to be raised in his household. When La Cendrillon and Raoul, as the two become called, grow older, they are drawn into court intrigue and the twists and turns that hidden identities bring.
Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George. Princess Poppy (one of the sisters forced to dance night after night in George’s previous Princess of the Midnight Ball) visits cousins in the country of Breton to help create goodwill among the different kingdoms of Ionia. While there, she makes friends with Prince Christian of Danelaw and resigns herself to attending balls, although she avoids dancing as often as she can. When an unpleasant maid named Ellen mysteriously starts to appear as the belle at every ball, Poppy is one of only a few who realize that dark magic may be behind it. Will Poppy be able to solve the mystery of Ellen’s unknown benefactor before Ellen gets herself in too deep? For those who like knitting, it appears in this installment as well!
Ash by Malinda Lo (2010 William C. Morris Finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Top Ten). Ash (short for Aisling) forms an odd (and dangerous) friendship with the fairy Sidhearn after the death of both her parents lands her in servitude to an evil stepmother. Sidhearn can provide the impossible, but when Ash also becomes friends with the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, she begins to wonder if an eternity in the fairy realm is actually what she wants.
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (Best Books for Young Adults 2000). A young adult version of her autobiography Falling Leaves, Chinese Cinderella narrates Mah’s childhood, ruled by a real-life cruel stepmother and often at odds with her own brothers and sisters. The love of an aunt and her own success in school help her to eventually build a life for herself, and her story is as fascinating as any fictional tale.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013, Teens’ Top Ten 2012). A science fiction Cinderella? This popular tale, set in a future New Beijing with a cyborg mechanic heroine offers just that. Cinder is despised by both her stepmother and society because of her cyborg status, but the combination of attracting business from the prince himself and her stepsister’s contraction of a deadly plague means that her strategy of keeping her head down won’t last any longer. Cinder is volunteered to be a plague research subject, and a discovery made in her body gives her the power to save the world (and maybe catch a prince).
Bound by Donna Jo Napoli (Best Books for Young Adults 2005, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2010). Drawing on similar source material to that used for Yeh-Shen, Bound tells the story of Xing Xing, the daughter of a poor but happy potter and his second wife. With both of her parents dead, Xing Xing’s stepmother treats her as a servant while frantically trying to arrange a marriage for her own daughter, Wei Ping. Xing Xing is not much troubled by her own lack of marriage prospects–she certainly doesn’t envy her half-sister’s aching bound feet–but when Stepmother kills the carp that has revealed itself as the spirit of Xing Xing’s mother, Xing Xing must decide how to unbind herself.
I know I missed at least a few Cinderella retellings–I discovered more YA versions while compiling this list, and there are probably hundreds of picture book versions of Cinderella. Share your favorite below!
-Libby Gorman, currently reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)