A Worldwide Cinderella
by Paul Fleishman
illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Here we have the familiar (if sanitized) fairy tale told with portions of the text excerpted from the telling of 17 different nations. For each sentence -- and sometimes fragments of detail -- text is surrounded by monochrome decorative borders indicating the origin of the text while each spread holds a larger full-color image depicting common aspects of the story.
It's nice to see that many nations have variations of the story with details rich enough to differentiate them, and I like the concept of the book as a whole. I especially like the way Paschkis has filled in the border areas with cultural details, almost as if they are panels in a stained glass window or a an illuminated manuscript. I almost wish the text blocks had some color to them so they blended better with the art.
It's the illustrations that make this book for me because, for all its variety, the text leaves me flat. The fact is, there are many multi-cultural retellings of the Cinderella story as the variations have their own histories and pedigrees. So then why cherry-pick details from many rich versions to make one dull, simplified one? I don't know that we needed another Cinderella story, and without knowing source material I'm left wondering how many of the variations were originally brought to new lands by immigrants and conquerors (the Appalachian variants from German ancestors, Indian variants from the British) or were radically different to begin with and pre-dated outside influences. The concept of an actual worldwide story plays out more like a cultural game of telephone. The more I think about it the more it feels like a multi-culti feel-good tale aimed at pleasing all and offending none. That's my opinion.
Really, I still like it, but more for the pictures.