In Greece, it is said that a girl is an orphan when she loses her mother, and that is the only word that names the protagonist in this Cinderella tale.
The cruel stepmother even counts the drops of water the orphan is permitted to drink. The orphan finds poetry and advice in her mother’s voice at her grave, and Mother Nature gives her treasures, including a pair of blue shoes the color of the sea to wear on her tiny feet. When the prince comes to the village church one Sunday, the stepmother and stepsisters dress in all their finery, while the orphan is clothed in Mother Nature’s gifts, with the Evening Star as a wreath on her long black hair. But the orphan must leave as soon as the church service ends. The next week, the prince has honey and wax poured on the church steps, so the orphan leaves a tiny blue shoe stuck there when she runs out. Potter’s watercolors are limpid in color and fervent in line; the sweeping curve of the orphan’s tresses plays as a motif through the images. Text pages are framed in grapevines, and the whole has the feel of folk painting: The Sun, Moon, Dawn and Star are instantly recognizable smiling folk-art figures. Several phrases repeat to keep the rhythm, and it ends, of course, with a wedding and a tantalizing “I was there, I should know.”
There can never be too many Cinderellas—well, maybe there can, but definitely make room for this one. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)