Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Walt Disney's Cinderella by Cynthia Rylant

Most children have grown up hearing fairy tales. As a middle school librarian there are certain tales that I assume my students will be familiar with. This year, when doing a lesson on fairy tale retellings, I was amazed at the number of students who didn’t know the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. One story, however that it is still safe to assume that children know is that of Cinderella. Although there have been several excellent novelizations of this story (such as Ella Enchanted), Cinderella has never really been a story that captured my imagination. Give me Beauty and the Beast any day.

Enter my obsession with reading blogs. I read reviews of Walt Disney’s Cinderella on two different blogs: A Year of Reading and Becky’s Book Reviews. Normally, I wouldn’t have given this book a chance – after all we are all familiar with the movie. But these reviews were just so enthusiastic that I couldn’t resist going to the bookstore and looking at it. I came out of the bookstore with book in hand and have been showing it (and reading it aloud) to teachers ever since. I’ve had teachers struggle not to cry while listening to it, and several teachers are working on ways to share it with their classes.

What makes it so special? Quite simply, the language is spectacular. Rylant has written a story that makes your heart ache for Cinderella, even though you know how the story is going to end.

Even the wicked stepmother and stepsisters are written in a fashion that you understand the blackness in their hearts: “Like the roses, which did not bloom across their doorways, Love itself did not ever linger.”

Some other wonderful quotes:

“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.”

There are many, many other passages I could have included. This may very well be my favorite book of the year – it’s certainly in the top five. It would make both a wonderful gift for anyone who loves incredible writing and a wonderful book to use in the classroom.

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