Despite the singular title, this clever and sensitive retelling of “Cinderella” takes the viewpoint of the supposedly evil stepsisters and turns the story inside out.
Jane and her sister, Maude, live in serious poverty after the death of their handsome but alcoholic father, who wasted the family fortune. They live in their decaying mansion with their mother, who still insists that ladies do not work, although Jane and Maude toil all day, chopping wood, cooking and gathering food from the woods. When their mother returns from town with a new, supposedly rich husband and stepsister, Isabella, conditions worsen, as Ella refuses to lift a finger. When her father also dies bankrupt, the girl sulks by the cold fireplace, playing with the cinders, leading to a new nickname: Cinder-Ella. A royal hunting party brings the prince; beautiful Ella tells the aristocrats of her evil stepmother and sisters. Smitten, the prince holds a ball—but Ella may not find the fairy-tale ending she hopes for….Barrett tells her story straight, painting a picture of the sisters’ poverty that rings true. She includes the major elements of the fairy tale but gives them realistic rather than magical origins, naming Ella’s pony Mouse, for instance.
Highly imaginative as well as insightful, this outstanding revision has the power to entrance and provoke thought. (Romance. 12-18)