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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Interstellar Cinderella, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 ages 6 and up

"The prince's spaceship
jerked and hissed
and spewed a cloud of grit.
The prince hopped out.
"Oh blast! What now?
My chief mechanic quit!"
But Interstellar Cinderella
knew just what to do.
She zipzapped with her socket
wrench -
the ship was good as new!" -

What fun it was to read this for the first time ... and then, even more fun to read it aloud to others! The language chosen to tell it (after all, this is Deborah Underwood!) is exactly what makes it such a pleasure to share.

The text that enlivens every page has a lilting rhythm to capture attention and a carefully listening ear. At the height of collecting Cinderella stories in our house, we had more than 125 versions. There are many, many more than that! We would happily have added this one to the shelf, and I will be sharing it in workshops and classrooms whenever asked.

The joy that children find in fairy tales is that they offer hope, even when none seems possible. The protagonist often overcomes unbelievable odds to win out. As has happened in those other Cinderella stories, Interstellar Cinderella also battles the odds ... one evil stepmother and her two equally evil daughters. Cinderella has a vocation. She is a mechanic, and she loves feeling that she is making a difference in her world by fixing, building, and being useful.

With an invitation to the ball, her family heads off to enjoy the festivities. Before leaving, her stepmother makes sure that Interstellar has no tools to mend the spaceship that might take her there. A fairy godmother provides new tools that ensure Cinderella's attendance. When she meets the prince, she is less enamored of him than of his spaceship. The ship's problems offer no difficulty for Cinderella; once again, time is her enemy. She must flee before her spaceship stops flying at midnight. The prince is left with a socket wrench from her tool kit.

You may think you know what happens next! I wonder if you will be right. Check it out and see.

This is a terrific modern retelling of a very old and traditional tale. Cinderella has a needed skill, the prince recognizes it and appreciates her talent for mechanical prowess. Meg Hunt's inventive and colorful illustrations add to the allure of words and the imagination of its author. Wonderful!

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