Wednesday, October 29, 2014

‘Cinder Edna’ by Ellen Jackson

Photo of a book, Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, propped against a cushion with a crocheted afghan folded next to it.
The slideshow that accompanied our reading in The Joy of Children’s Literature this week raised an intriguing question: Do “fractured” or feminist fairy tales make sense if children don’t have the context of the original story?

With Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson (1994), illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, children have a chance to compare and contrast the story of Cinderella with that of her next-door-neighbor. Both young women are similarly forced to work for a wicked stepmother and stepsisters.

But while Cinderella relies on her Fairy Godmother to get her to the ball, Cinder Edna raises money for a dress by doing chores for the neighbors and rides the bus to the palace. While there, the young women meet Prince Randolph and his younger brother Rupert who — as befits the two heroines’ varying attitudes — are as different as can be.

Cinder Edna is a “fractured” commentary on the European fairy tale (written down in 1697 by Charles Perrault) and on the self-reliance and competence of its heroines and their would-be princes. It is written to appeal to modern sensibilities about the roles of women in society.

In Cinder Edna, illustrator O’Malley uses a broad palette of colors, and the characters play out the story against a detailed background.

A reader’s guide on author Ellen Jackson’s website sets Cinder Edna during the 1970s, and highlights several visuals that were used by O’Malley: Cinder Edna’s hairdo, clothing styles and a peace symbol around Cinder Edna’s neck.

The mood in O’Malley’s illustrations is fun and lively, and serves as a nice counterpart to Jackson’s humorous narrative. One of my favorite lines concerns Rupert’s observation that Cinderella’s abandoned glass slipper “definitely should be recycled.”

Finally, the reader’s guide provides an interesting piece of trivia about the setting of Cinder Edna: the palace that the princes live in is Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif. The reader’s guide notes that Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, which published Cinder Edna, was owned by Hearst Corporation.

Works Cited:
  • Jackson, Ellen. Cinder Edna. Illus. Kevin O’Malley. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1994. Print.
  • ----. “Cinder Edna: Reader’s Guide.” Author Ellen Jackson. Web. 29 October 2014.
  • Johnson, Denise. The Joy of Children’s Literature. 2nd ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2012. Print.
  • Perrault, Charles. Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper. University of Pittsburgh, 2003. Web. 29 October 2014.

Composed for Cuesta College’s ECE 234, Children’s Literature

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